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Chinese Puzzle


Stars: Romain Duris, Audrey Tautou, Kelly Reilly, C├ęcile de France, Sandrine Holt, Peter McRobbie, Byron Jennings, Flore Bonaventura, Peter Hermann, Jason Kravits, Li Jun Li

Director: C├ędric Klapisch

Although most of this 'look at life' is set in New York, it is unmistakeably a French film. Its favourite word is 'complicated'. Boy does it work that one hard. It is, in fact, the final part of a trilogy centred on diminutive, bestubbled Xavier (Duris), whom we meet facing the end of his 10-year marriage to Wendy (Reilly), who is moving from Paris to New York and taking their two children with her.

Xavier, now an acclaimed author, had a previous relationship with Martine (Tautou), who he is to meet again after he flies to America in pursuit of more time with his children.

Bedding down with a lesbian mate (de France) and her partner Ju (Holt), he donates his sperm to help them have a baby, then moves into a poky apartment and marries a Chinese-American girl (Li) so that he can become a permanent resident.

Relationships with Wendy, who has a new (and much bigger) partner, John (Hermann), remain frosty, but then Martine, now with two children of her own, comes back into his life, as he understandably fights to find time to finish his latest novel.

How he ends up in the same room with all five women, just as the far-from-friendly immigration officer (delightfully played by McRobbie) turns up, is a miracle of the screenwriter's invention.

Although the film has moments of warmth and sly humour, its characters are quite difficult to like, and things get embarrassingly twee at a finale that's meant to to be uplifting and triumphant. A French story set in the Big Apple? Hmm. Probably better to have remained in Paris. (English and French dialogue)

David Quinlan

France/Belgium 2013. UK Distributor: StudioCanal. Technicolor.
117 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 15 Jun 2014