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Film / Amélie

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Amélie (original French title: Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain; in English, The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain) is a 2001 French Romantic Comedy film directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, starring Audrey Tautou and Mathieu Kassovitz. André Dussollier is the narrator.

The plot follows Amélie Poulain, a lonely young Parisian waitress with simple pleasures, as she decides to become a sort of guardian angel to those around her: reuniting a stranger with a box of his childhood treasures, gently prompting her retired father to follow his dreams of world travel, matchmaking café regulars, playing practical jokes on a greengrocer who's being cruel to his assistant, writing love letters to a woman whose husband left her, etc. During her adventures, she meets an odd young man named Nino Quincampoix, who we quickly realize is her soulmate — but she is too shy to make direct contact. She must find the courage to fix her own life as she's been fixing those of others.

In 2015, the film got a Broadway adaptation starring Phillipa Soo as the title character.

Amélie provides examples of:

  • Always Identical Twins: A pair of elderly women twins are seen buying food at the local fruit stand. They also Finish Each Other's Sentences.
  • Animate Inanimate Object:
    • When Amélie falls asleep, the animals in the pictures on the wall above her bed come to life and talk about her. Her pig-shaped bedside light then pulls a cord to switch itself off.
    • A set of photos from a photo booth comes alive and talks to Nino. At first, they speak in unison, but then talk individually.
  • Anonymous Public Phone Call: Amélie, in a nearby cafe, calls a payphone next to a passer-by to make him walk into the phone booth and find a present she's left there for him. She plays a similar trick on Nino later.
  • Anywhere but Their Lips: Played with during the final kissing scene.
  • Artistic License: According to the narrator in the epilogue, "Félix Lerbier learns there are more links in his brain than atoms in the universe." If you think about it for a second, that's physically impossible. It should have been "than stars in the universe".
    • This is sometimes quoted as more possible links in the brain than atoms in the universe, which is mathematically possible.
  • Aside Glance: Plenty from Amélie.
    • She does one after her coup to return the photo album to Nino succeeded.
    • The last shot of the movie has Nino and Amélie on their motorbike both turn and make faces at the camera.
  • Asshole Victim: Amélie takes revenge on the grocer on behalf of Lucien. He almost suffers a nervous breakdown, but he's such a Hate Sink that the audience enjoys it.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • The narrator announces that the following event will change Amélie's life forever. We see Amélie reacting to TV footage about Lady Di's death and it looks like this will be the driving force behind her change but then the scene goes on to show that it's her Dramatic Drop that triggers the Inciting Incident.
    • Nino gets one. While he is waiting for Amélie at the cafe, a beautiful girl walks in, smiling in his general direction. But then she is revealed to be somebody else's date.
  • Birds of a Feather: Amélie and Nino are quiet little oddballs who are very kind but aren't all that good at making friends.
  • Blithe Spirit: Amélie's mission after finding the box of trinkets is to affect the lives of those around her in a positive way.
  • Brick Joke: Collignon's mother comments that she was still squeezing her son's toothpaste when he was aged fifteen. Later, Collignon uses toothpaste; only to find that it is foot cream, in an almost identical tube.
  • Bully Magnet: Apparently, Nino was this at school.
  • Cacophony Cover Up: Amélie tries to cover up Georgette's Immodest Orgasm with the steamer of the coffee machine.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Amélie's games with Nino, ostensibly designed to whet his interest in her, are in fact because she's painfully shy and terrified of approaching him. The two times she does actually set up an honest meeting to approach him, she freezes up and lets the moment slip past.
  • Career-Ending Injury: Madame Suzanne's backstory. She fell from a horse which ended her circus career.
  • Cassette Craze: Gina's obsessive stalker Joseph is at the café where she works every day, using a dictating machine to take notes on her every movement. When he then moves on to Georgette, he demonstrates his stalking by playing back all the references to "camel hair" (belonging to a particular male) in quick succession.
  • Cat Scare: Inverted. When Amélie daydreams about Nino coming in through her beaded doorway and the beads rustle, she turns around and rather than relieved to see a cat, is understandably disappointed to find her cat.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • Amélie's air stewardess friend Philomène, who is introduced just as one of the other regulars of Café des Deux Moulins. She's the one who's been taking the pictures of the gnome in different parts of the world. She jokingly tells Amélie she got the name "Snow White" for it.
    • Philomène's cat applies as a minor example, too. See above for Cat Scare.
  • The Chessmaster: An unexpected example. Amélie is the less-common benevolent version of this trope, manipulating people and events in such a way as to bring them happiness without ever revealing her intentions (or sometimes even her involvement).
  • Choosy Beggar: Amélie wants to give some change to a beggar hanging around at a Paris train station but he declines since he doesn't work on Sundays.
  • Chore Character Exploration: In the sex shop where they work, Nino and Eva casually discuss Amélie, while busily putting prices on sex toys. Madeline Wells is seen dusting banisters while Amélie talks to her.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Amélie is very shy, so she mostly lives in a world of her own imagination. Much of the supporting cast are also a bit quirky.
  • Collector of the Strange: Nino. Before he started gathering ID photos, he collected footprints and recorded funny laughs.
  • Coming and Going: In the opening scene, a man crosses the name of his recently deceased friend out of his little black book at the exact same moment as the title character's conception (only the sperm entering the egg is shown).
  • Compartment Shot: We see Amélie reaching for that treasure box from inside the wall.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Amélie pays back cruelty with cruelty throughout her life. When she is a child, a neighbor fools her into thinking that her camera causes accidents, so as punishment she sits on his roof, listening to the football game on the radio and unplugging his TV connection at vital moments. As an adult, she plays pranks on the grocer to torment him for his mean-spirited treatment of his assistant.
  • Cool Old Guy: Raymond Dufayel, the shut-in in Amélie's building. He serves as a mentor to Amélie and delivers the monologue begging her not to follow his example that finally breaks her out of her shell.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Joseph, who possessively smothers any woman he is interested in. This causes him to stalk Gina, and sabotage his potential relationship with Georgette.
  • Creative Closing Credits: The main characters are seen as photos in Nino's album, including the face of the unseen narrator. The opening credits are also very subtly creative: the young Amélie is seen doing quirky things related to the credits, including:
    • For "costume", she wears cherries on her ears.
    • For "set design", she knocks over a line of dominoes.
    • For "music", she plays her hair like a stringed instrument.
    • For "sound", she drinks noisily through a straw.
  • Cult Soundtrack: The soundtrack, composed by Yann Tiersen, received rave reviews and even went platinum in Canada. Its songs are still used as atmospheric music in a wide range of media.
  • Death by Looking Up: Amélie's mother meets this fate, courtesy of a suicidal Canadian tourist jumping off a church roof and landing on her.
  • Digital Bikini: When the movie was shown on the satellite TV channel Ovation TV, a bikini was photoshopped on the topless dancer Nino asks to cover for him at work.
  • Dope Slap: In one of his Kick the Dog moments, Collignon slaps Lucien on the back his head.
  • Dramatic Drop: The movie uses this to get the plot started, as Amélie reacts in shock to hearing news of Princess Diana's death and drops the lid of her perfume flask.
  • Dramatic TV Shut-Off: Played with, with the young Amélie takes her revenge on a neighbour, by disconnecting his television aerial while he is watching football; she has a radio with her, so she knows when the best moments are.
  • Driver Faces Passenger: One of the things Amélie does not like are drivers in American films who don't watch the road. Cut to a scene from the American film Father's Little Dividend where the actor drives a desk and looks at his passenger 99% of the time. In the DVD director's commentary, Jean-Pierre Jeunet comments on how difficult it is to find a clip exhibiting this trope when you're specifically looking for one.note 
  • Empathic Environment: It starts raining when young Amélie's goldfish gets dumped into the creek.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The film's French and English titles tell you what to expect from Amélie herself and what she does.
  • The Fantastic Trope of Wonderous Titles: The French title, at least.
  • Fast-Forward Gag: This happens when Amélie prepares her forged letter to Madeline Welles. The action is sped up while she uses scissors to cut a letter into small pieces, before gluing them together in a different order.
  • Feedback Rule: The intercom at Nino's sex shop is giving off a feedback sound whenever it's being operated.
  • Feet-First Introduction: The mystery man is at first seen only by his feet, with distinctive red shoes. Later it is revealed that this is the bald man who keeps mysteriously reappearing in Nino's album of discarded passport photos, and for a simple reason: he is the photo booth repair man, discarding his test photos.
  • Forged Message: One of Amélie's neighbors is bitter that her husband left her for another woman, then died in a plane crash. So Amélie creates a fake letter to convince the neighbor that the husband wanted to reconcile with her, had left his mistress, and was on his way home when the plane crashed.
  • For Happiness: Amélie's acts of kindness to make those around her happy.
  • The Freelance Shame Squad: The laughing crowd in front of Collignon's shop after Amélie delivers her imagined joke about him not having a heart.
  • French Accordion: Though actually a French film, Amélie features a lot of musette in the soundtrack to evoke a timeless mood, befitting a story set in a Magical Realism Sugar Bowl version of Paris.
  • Friendless Background: Both Amélie and Nino. Amélie was homeschooled, while Nino was bullied by the other children.
  • Gaslighting: Amélie sneaks into her grocer's apartment and subtly messes with his stuff, changing the size of his slippers, the numbers on his speed dial, etc., to punish him for mocking his ambiguously handicapped and one-armed employee.
  • Gay Paree: Paris comes across as a sumptuous and beautiful wonderland, though the real Paris is significantly dirtier. On his English-language DVD commentary, Jeunet jokes that in real life Paris is totally horrible, except for his native Montmartre.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Amélie meets a female Dominique Bretodeau who seems to take quite a liking in her.
  • Glass Slipper: Amélie has a Love at First Sight moment when bumping into Nino at a Parisian subway station. He doesn't notice her at all and quickly rides off with his scooter. However, a photo album falls off when he takes a sharp corner and Amélie picks it up. It helps her to get in contact with Nino, who, after noticing his loss, leaves stickers around the station with his phone number.
  • Good Feels Good: The catalyzing moment in the film is when Amélie realizes that improving people's lives makes her feel good, so she sets about secretly meddling in others' affairs.
  • Guilt Complex: Young Amélie temporarily believes she caused all misery in the world after her neighbor planted that idea in her head.
  • Helping Granny Cross the Street: In one scene Amélie is helping a blind man across the street and even further.
  • Her Code Name Was "Mary Sue": Amélie has multiple Imagine Spot moments where she watches documentaries about Lady Diana and puts herself into them. While one such spot obviously leads to Amélie getting a Downer Ending, she is nonetheless pristine in those spots as the documentary narration makes her into a selfless martyr that the world can't go on without.
  • A Hero Is Born: The movie begins with the conception of the heroine.
  • Homeschooled Kids: Amélie, since her father believed she had a heart condition.
  • Hypochondria: Georgette is a straight example in combination with Sickly Neurotic Geek, given all the medicine she's witnessed taking, while Amélie herself ends up an accidental example because her excitement over paternal contact is mistaken for a heart condition.
  • I Have This Friend: Oddly, done by the advice-giver. Raymond notes that Amélie is too shy to talk about herself. He gently coaxes her into it by pretending to ask for motives behind a figure in his painting, and deliberately suggesting ones similar to what he's seen of her.
  • Imagine Spot: Used a lot, like when Amélie pictures herself as Zorro, or when Nino is late and her extended train of thought leads her to believe that he'd been captured and taken hostage by the Afghan Mujahideen, whom he joins and is now living in Afghanistan raising goats.
  • Immodest Orgasm:
    • When Amélie wonders how many couples are having orgasms at that moment, we get a montage of the couples doing so.
    • Joseph gives Georgette one of the immodest kind. See Right Through the Wall.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Collignon needs one after the shenanigans Amélie puts him through. Unfortunately, the liquor is spiked with a handful of salt resulting in him performing a Spit Take.
  • Informed Attractiveness: In Nino's dream, the headshots in one of his pictures come alive and argue over whether Amélie is all that attractive. Some will only say that she's rather pretty, but another insists that she's beautiful. Interestingly, the character was written for Emily Watson and was probably going to be somewhat Hollywood Homely before Audrey Tautou was cast.
  • I Want My Mommy!: After Collignon gets sufficiently gaslighted, he decides to call his mother; only to find that the speed dial for his mother has been changed to a psychiatric helpline.
  • Karmic Trickster: The role Amélie takes in dealing with the grocer's treatment of Lucien.
  • Knuckle Cracking: Gina, Amélie's co-worker, takes a liking to this activity.
  • Lady Drunk: Madeleine Wallace.
  • Leave the Two Lovebirds Alone: When Amélie and Nino finally get together, Lucien keeps filming their fondling from across the street, only for Dufayel to tell him off.
  • Lies to Children: Amélie's neighbor makes the gullible young girl believe that by operating her camera she was responsible for a car crash. He gets his comeuppance soon enough.
  • Living Photo: Nino keeps a photo booth photograph by his bed side which suddenly starts talking to him, reminding him that there is a girl in love with him.
  • Like You Were Dying: Inverted; it's Dufayel, old and sick, who prods young and vibrant Amélie into living her life.
  • Loon with a Heart of Gold: Amélie is a Cloud Cuckoolander with strange fantasies whose life goal is to bring people happiness (in accordance with her personality, she does it in bizarre ways).
  • Love at First Sight: Implied with Amélie who fell in love with Nino when she saw him by the photo machine at the metro station.
  • Lustful Melt: Amélie dissolved into tears because of heartbreak after she Cannot Spit It Out and Nino leaves the cafe.
  • Magic Realism: Everywhere, from the talking photographs to Amélie watching an old-style newsreel on her own life (arguably a Shout-Out to Citizen Kane and of course Mother Teresa and Florence Nightingale)...
  • Metaphorgotten: The metaphorical comparison of the unfinished girl in the painting to Amélie quickly disintegrates when she gets fed up with Raymond's prying.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: A large portion of the first act is relating to Amélie's childhood, in which she begins showing her defining characteristics.
  • Missing Mom: Amélie loses her mother to an accident early in her life. Her death leaves Amélie behind with an absent-minded father.
  • Missing the Good Stuff: A young Amélie gets her revenge on an unpleasant neighbor by sneaking onto his roof with a portable radio during an important soccer match and pulling the plug on his TV antenna whenever a goal is about to be scored. It drives him crazy.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Joseph sees Gina dropping a note into Nino's pocket and assumes that she was giving Nino her number while it actually was a note from Amélie.
  • Modest Orgasm: During the sequence when Amélie is imagining how many people are in the midst of orgasm ("fifteen!"), the last woman's O sound is somewhere between a gasp and a squeak.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: It was more like a Modesty Human Shield. Both scenes where Amélie was naked, she had a person over her.
  • Monochrome Casting: The film is set in Montmartre, an area of Paris with a large immigrant population, but the cast, with the exception of Jamel Debouze, is exclusively white.
  • Monochrome Past: The flashbacks to Nino's childhood are in black and white.
  • Mountaintop Healthcare: In one Imagine Spot, Amélie sees herself as a red-cross nurse in the Alpes pushing Dufayel around in a wheelchair.
  • Ms. Imagination: Amélie has created an imaginary world to make up for the lack of friends.
  • Narrative Filigree: The Movie. Amélie frequently delves into irrelevant events, such as marking Amélie's conception occurring at the exact time that a fly is crushed, that wine glasses "dance" on a moving tablecloth unseen, and that an elderly gentleman erases his deceased friend from his notebook of phone numbers. Additionally, almost every named character (or animal in the case of Philomène's cat) is noted as liking or disliking something in order to give detail to the world. The minor subplot about the death of Princess Diana also qualifies.
  • Narrator: The narrator will tell you about the plot, the characters, and even the character's likes and dislikes. These are given nods and shout outs almost every time the character in question appears on-screen. A good example of this is Bretodeau, whom the narrator tells us likes snitching the chicken oysters while fixing dinner, and is later shown at his daughter's house fixing dinner for them and her son, giving the boy the oysters.
  • Neat Freak: Amélie's parents. Her father likes polishing his shoes, emptying his toolbox, cleaning it thoroughly, and putting everything back. Her mother likes dusting with the slippers on her feet, as well as emptying her handbag, cleaning it thoroughly, and putting everything back.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Amélie gives to the beggars and is nice to the disabled.
  • Not Listening to Me, Are You?: Amélie's father is distracted because his favorite gnome went missing and sent him pictures from various cities around the world. So he fails Amélie's test of attention:
    Amélie: I had two heart attacks and had to have an abortion because I did crack while I was pregnant. Other than that, I'm fine.
    Father (absent-minded): Good.
  • One-Track-Minded Artist: Dufayel is in the business of repainting Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party over and over.
  • One-Word Title: The film's English title in contrast to the original French name.
  • Overly Long Gag: Amélie's imagined second reason as to why Nino is late.
  • Painting the Medium: The mother's Twitchy Eye is pointed out with on-screen text.
  • Parental Neglect: A non-malicious variation. Amélie's father was so distant that, when he gave her occasional check-ups, the rare contact with her father would make her heart race; since he believed this was a result of a heart condition, he had her home-schooled by her neurotic mother, forcing Amélie to hide in her imagination.
  • Photo-Booth Montage: Played with. The film has a montage of Amélie looking through other people's discarded photos from such a booth, which her love interest has collected into an album.
  • Photo Montage: The Creative Closing Credits feature Nino's carefully compiled photo album, now with pictures of all the film's characters added.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: The grocer Collignon, constantly picking on the mentally disabled Lucien and calling him names.
  • Poor Man's Porn: The grocer reveals that he found a lingerie catalog from Collignon where he'd pasted Lady Di's face over the model's.
  • Protagonist Title: Both the French and English titles of the movie are named after Amélie herself.
  • Public Secret Message: When Amélie and Nino are described as the childhood friends that never were, the young Amélie and Nino are seen flashing lights out of their windows at each other.
  • Race for Your Love: Aborted. In the final act when Amélie can't spot Nino outside her house, she rushes for the door to chase after him but he is already standing in front of her door.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Amélie, especially on the poster.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: A good deal of the soundtrack is taken from Yann Tiersen's other albums.
  • Red/Green Contrast: The film uses red and green predominantly in its color palette, with the color blue used to make objects stand out.
  • Right Through the Wall: Georgette and Joseph in the café bathroom, making all the cups and crockery rattle. Amélie covers up the sound of The Immodest Orgasm by running the espresso machine.
  • Romantic Ride Sharing: This happens in the end sequence of the movie, when Nino and Amélie are shown riding down the streets of Montmartre on a motorcycle, teasing one another playfully and generally being so deeply in love that they are completely oblivious to the world around them.
  • Rule of Funny: It's very unlikely to find the toothpaste and foot cream tubes in someone's bathroom to look alike. But it makes for a great prank.
  • Scenery Porn: The film is gorgeously shot and uses beautiful locations throughout Gay Paree. In fact, Parisians complained that the locations used in filming were cleaned so thoroughly that they didn't match the surrounding ambiance once the film crews left.
  • The Scream: Collignon lets out the first of a few when he realises he's brushing his teeth with foot cream.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: When Collignon causes a dramatic short circuit thanks to Amélie's prank.
  • Separated by the Wall: Amélie and Nino being separated by the apartment door towards the end of the movie.
  • Sex Montage: In one scene, Amélie amuses herself by wondering "how many couples are having orgasms right now?" She correctly guesses "Fifteen!" after a montage of every single one.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Through his hobby of collecting discarded ID photos, Nino becomes fascinated with a sinister-looking individual, who took photos of himself in every single booth in Paris before immediately throwing them away, and spends a good deal of time wondering what his secret could be. It takes almost the entire movie and a good deal of suspense-building until it's revealed that he's just the repairman.
  • Shipper on Deck: Amélie for Georgette and Joseph. It goes poorly.
  • Shrine to the Fallen: The father builds an elaborate shrine for the deceased mother.
  • Shrinking Violet: Amélie and Nino. They are both shy, quiet, and friendly but have a hard time making friends.
  • Significant Reference Date: The film begins on the morning of August 31, 1997 - the date that Diana, Princess of Wales, died. Amélie learning this news is what sets off the plot.
  • Smash to Black: After Amélie's mother is hit by the suicidal tourist, the scene cuts to black.
  • Stage Whisper: Parodied. A prompter from a cellar window provides Amélie with a punchy comeback to Collignon insulting Lucien.
  • Stuffed into a Trashcan: When Nino is introduced, the flashback shows him having been bullied this way in school.
  • Talking with Signs: When Samantha is dancing in the peep-show booth to loud music, Nino tries to ask her if she can replace him on the till at four o'clock. First he tries bellowing above the music, then pointing to himself and holding up four fingers. Finally he resorts to writing a note and holding it up.
  • That Cloud Looks Like...: Exaggerated for the sake of magic realism.
  • Time Capsule: Dominique Bretodeau's treasure box which he left behind by accident in the 1950s.
  • Time-Passes Montage: A brief one just before Amélie grows up, showing a teddy bear in the garden through the four seasons.
  • Trickster Girlfriend: Amélie begins as this for Nino, since she plays cat-and-mouse with him without even revealing her face; it's mostly due to shyness, though.
  • Tunnel of Love: Played with. Amélie's first meeting with her future love interest Nino is on a ghost train, where Nino is dressed as a ghost, and strokes her face while saying "Whooooooo!"
  • Twice Shy: Amélie and Nino: both very shy and introverted people (and also more than a little quirky) which makes them perfect for each other, but alas, they Cannot Spit It Out (until the very end of the movie, that is.)
  • Twitchy Eye: Amélie's mother, cited as the sign of a nervous person.
  • Undignified Death: Amélie's mother is leaving Notre-Dame de Paris, having just prayed for the conception of a second child, when a Quebecois tourist committing suicide lands on her, killing them both.
  • Unflattering ID Photo: Nino collects ugly passport photos that people have torn up and discarded, and puts them in an album.
  • Vehicle Vanish: Amélie finally gathers her courage to face Nino at the train station, but then a luggage car blocks her way. After it passed, Nino has disappeared from the phone booth.
  • Weather Report Opening: Inverted. The weather report is the final line of the film: "...Meanwhile, at the Sacré-Cœur, the nuns are practicing their backhand. The temperature is 24 degrees, humidity 70%, atmospheric pressure 990 millibars."
  • Woken Up at an Ungodly Hour: The movie sets the grocer Collignon's alarm clock for four in the morning, as revenge for him being cruel to his employee Lucien. Collignon gets up, gets dressed, but does not notice that something is wrong until he starts opening his shop, and realises that the street around him is deserted, except by a few rats.
  • World-Weary Waitress: The café owner Suzanne. After thirty years behind a bar, she has seen it all, is an expert on love at first sight, and can even give you the recipe: take two regulars, tell each of them the other fancies them, and leave them to stew: it works every time. Amélie tries this out with Joseph and Georgette.
  • Zorro Mark: In an Imagine Spot, Amélie sees herself as Zoro leaving a Z mark on Collignon's apartment door.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Le Fabuleux Destin D Amelie Poulain


Helping a Blind Man

Suddenly compelled to help mankind, Amelie helps a blind man walk across the street and narrates the sights of the boulevard.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / HelpingGrannyCrossTheStreet

Media sources: