Everyone around me is complaining about the movies that came out in 2004. About how Sideways is good, but is it really that good, and if it wins best picture it should have an asterisk next to it because of the weak crop of other movies. How the Aviator is horrible, and Scorsese is only being nominated for director because he's never won before. I myself was disappointed by The Life Aquatic, Spanglish, Shrek 2, The Bourne Supremacy, Blade: Trinity, The Village, and pleased but not amazed with i heart huckabees, The Incredibles, Harry Potter, and Garden State.
Then there were the horribles. National Treasure, Chronicles of Riddick, Ocean's Twelve, The Punisher, The Ladykillers, The Terminal. None of these movies should have been greenlit.
But when people start all that off-year-for-movies crap, I have one word.
I dug some movies. Primer, Saved, Man on Fire, Mean Girls, Troy and Resident Evil: Apocalypse were much better than expected. I have yet to see Million Dollar Baby or Closer, but I plan on remedying that soon. I enjoyed Eternal Sunshine, Goodbye Lenin!, Shaun of the Dead, Before Sunset, and, most importantly, the reason for this whole damn post, A Very Long Engagement.
I don't know who was in charge of marketing this film, but the preview is unfocussed and scattered. The whole "if Manech were dead, Mathilde would know" angle is selling the movie short, downplaying the war and mystery aspects in favor of over-sentimentality which does not exist in the film. This movie should have been a slam dunk after Amelie. Which is probably the problem. Amelie exceeded expectations with little marketing in the begining. But alas, no one appears to be interested in A Very Long Engagement.
I ask you, dear reader, to go see this film. It is good. It is not so very long, just a tad over two hours, and it doesn't feel a minute over an hour forty-five. If you liked Amelie, it's definitely grittier; it is, after all about WWI, and specifically involves trench warfare. But it still has the magic of Jeunet, but is more melancholy and more entrenched in the real world than his previous films.
If you enjoy Wes Anderson, but were disappointed by The Life Aquatic, A Very Long Engagement may be just the tonic for you.
Just go see it. It is definitely worth seeing on the big screen.
For my money it's one of the best films of the year, and it's a shame that it has been so overlooked.