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Film / Angel (2007)

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Angel (or Real Life of Angel Deverell) is a 2007 British-French-Belgian drama film directed by François Ozon, starring Romola Garai, Sam Neill, Lucy Russell, Michael Fassbender and Charlotte Rampling.

In Edwardian England, Angel Deverell (Garai), a teenage girl, dreams of becoming a writer. One day, she sends a manuscript to Theo Gilbright (Neill), a London publisher, and he agrees to publish it. So Angel becomes a successful writer. During a party after the performance of one of her plays, she meets Nora Howe-Nevinson (Russell) and her brother Esmé (Fassbender), two impoverished patricians. Nora greatly admires Angel's talent, while Esmé, an unsuccessful painter, does not appreciate her works. Angel earns a lot of money and she buys the house of her dreams, "Paradise".

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Angel provides examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Esmé becomes one after the war (because of the horrors of war, and probably also because his relationship with Angelica deteriorates and he cannot stand any more his life in "Paradise").
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Neill and Nora love Angel, who loves Esmé. Esmé loves his mistress Angelica, who finally dumps him when she gets married.
  • Animal Motifs: Angel buys peacocks for the park of "Paradise". She even throws a peacock feather in Esmé's grave. Peacocks are a symbol of vanity.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Esmé loses a leg during World War I.
  • Attempted Rape: A drunken Esmé tries to rape Angel, but Nora stops him.
  • At the Opera Tonight: Angel, her mother and Theo attend the first performance of the stage adaptation of Lady Irenia. During the party after the performance, Angel meets Nora and Esmé Howe-Nevinson.
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  • Awful Wedded Life: Before the war, Esmé does not love Angel, he marries her because she is rich. Angel does not realize it, because she is too self-absorbed to notice the feelings of others. After the war, Esmé becomes an alcoholic and he gets violent with Angel.
  • Beard of Sorrow: When he comes back from the war as a one-legged Shell-Shocked Veteran, Esmé sports a beard.
  • Big Fancy House: "Paradise", a grand country house in gothic revival style. Angel dreamt of living there when she was a child. When she earns enough money, she buys it and decorates it in a gaudy style.
  • Contrived Coincidence: During the war, Nora goes to London to meet Theo in a bar. Her brother Esmé happens to be on leave at that time and to be in the same bar, with his mistress, at the same time as Nora and Theo.
  • Dead Artists Are Better: During Esmé's life, Angel is the only person interested in buying his paintings (and she does not really like them, she buys them because she is in love with him). After Esmé's death, he becomes famous and his paintings are valued.
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  • Disappeared Dad: Angel's father died before the start of the story.
  • Domestic Abuse: Esmé tries to rape his wife Angel when he is drunk.
  • Driven to Suicide: Esmé hangs himself when his mistress dumps him and gets married.
  • Driving a Desk: When Angel and Theo drive through London in a horse-drawn carriage, it is obvious that a recording is projected on the wall behind the actors. The same technique is used later, when they drive a motor car by night, and for the images of Angel and Esmé's honeymoon.
  • The Edwardian Era: The story starts in this period. It ends in the Interwar period.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: When Angel and Theo drive through London in a horse-drawn carriage, some of the most famous monuments of the English capital can be seen in the background (the Palace of Westminster, for example).
  • Executive Meddling: In-Universe, Theo, the publisher, wants to make some changes in Angel's first book: he thinks the description of the childbirth is too graphic and he also notes that she made a mistake when she wrote that a champagne bottle is opened with a corkscrew. Angel refuses to change a single word.
  • The Film of the Book: The film is adapted from a 1957 novel of the same name by Elizabeth Taylor (the English novelist).
  • Gold Digger: Esmé never loved Angel. He married her because she was very rich and she insisted on marrying him.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: Nora, Angel's female secretary, gets jealous when Angel starts seeing Esmé. Later, Esmé tells Theo that Nora is in love with Angel. Esmé is also jealous of Nora: he tells Angel that the house is not big enough for the two of them after he sees Angel hugging Nora. He also tells that Angel does not like men and would be better alone with Nora. There is a scene where Nora massage the back of a naked Angel. On her deathbed, Angel tells that Nora is the only person who truly loved her.
  • I Didn't Tell You Because You'd Be Unhappy: Nora does not tell Angel that she saw Esmé in London with her mistress to protect Angel's feelings. She even claims that Esmé never had a leave during the war.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Nora and Esmé Howe-Nevinson (Russell) belong to a noble family, but they are poor. Nora proposes to work for Angel as a secretary. Esmé lives in a maid room.
  • It's All About Me: Angel is totally self-centred. She does not care about the others' feeling. Actually, she does not even realize that others have feelings. For example, she does not let her mother see Aunt Lottie one last time before dying. When one of the servants is sobbing because her boyfriend, the gardener, enlisted, Angel complains about the noise and tells that she will not hire the gardener back if he comes back from the war.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Angel is always sure that she is right. Theo, her publisher, suggests to correct a small mistake in her first book: she wrote that a champagne bottle is opened with a corkscrew. Angel refuses to admit that she made a mistake and to change a single word in her book.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Angel cannot have children, even if her husband, Esmé, wants to have children. When she gets pregnant, she has a miscarriage.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: When he is back from the war, Esmé would like to have sex with Angel, but he cannot, because he sees dead bodies when he tries to.
  • Love at First Sight: Angel falls in love with Esmé the first time she meets him, during the party of the performance of her play.
  • Malicious Misnaming: When Angel introduces Theo's wife to her mother, she calls her Herpione instead of Hermione, because she dislikes her.
  • The Mistress: Esmé has a mistress, Angelica. He even has a child with her. During the war, he prefers visiting her when he is on leave, rather than his wife Angel.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Angel, the protagonist, is a successful writer of melodramatic novel.
  • Nobility Marries Money: Esmé, an Impoverished Patrician, marries Angel, a Nouveau Riche writer.
  • Nouveau Riche: Angel is of humble birth. When she becomes incredibly rich, she decorates her Big Fancy House in a gaudy style and she wears Impossibly Tacky Clothes.
  • Playing Sick: Angel pretends to be sick to avoid going to school. The doctor immediately understands that she is pretending.
  • Race for Your Love: Esmé leaves a party that Angel organized for him. When Angel realizes that he has left, she runs after him and eventually catches up with him.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Sultan, Angel's big dog, dies during her honeymoon. Nora buys an identical dog as a replacement, but Angel immediately notices that it is not the same dog when she comes back home.
  • Romantic Rain: Esmé leaves a party organized by Angel. Angel runs after him, catches up with him, asks him to marry her and he gives her The Big Damn Kiss as it starts to rain (there is even a rainbow).
  • Sanity Slippage: Angel's sanity deteriorates progressively. It gets worse after she realizes that her husband had a mistress. When she visits Angelica, her clothes reveal that she is out of touch with reality.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: After the war, Esmé, who has lost a leg, sees dead bodies when he closes his eyes. He becomes an alcoholic and he gets violent with his wife. This change is only partly caused by the horrors of the war: his relationship with Angelica deteriorates and he cannot stand any more his life in "Paradise".
  • Shoutout:
  • Show Within a Show: The end of the stage adaptation of Lady Irenia, Angel's first book, is showed in the film.
  • Small Town Boredom: Angel hates Norley, the small town she comes from. She tells her publisher not to tell she comes from there and she hopes that she will eventually forget her origins.
  • Spiteful Spit: After Esmé announces that he enlisted and gives Angel a "Take That!" Kiss, Angel spits at his face.
  • Starving Artist: Esmé is a painter, but nobody wants to buy his paintings, but Angel. He is poor and lives in a maid room.
  • "Take That!" Kiss: After Esmé announces that he enlisted, Angel is angry at him and Esmé forces her to kiss him.
  • The Teetotaler: Angel's mother is a teetotaler and she wears the blue ribbon badge.
  • Time-Compression Montage: After the publication of Angel's first book, a montage shows that time passes and Angel becomes a successful writer: Angel is posing in different sets, she receives a prize, and the covers of her books appear on screen.

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