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Film / La Femme et le TGV

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La Femme et le TGV is a 2016 short film (30 minutes) from Switzerland, in the French language.

Elise (Jane Birkin) is an old lady who lives in a rural Swiss village. Actually she lives outside the village, by the railroad tracks. Her husband is dead, her son rarely talks to her, and her business, a bakery, seems on the verge of going under, unable to compete with an inferior but much cheaper chain bakery. All in all, her existence is rather cheerless.

Cheerless, that is, except for the twice-a-day passage of the TGV high-speed railway train. Elise makes a point of always greeting the train by waving a Swiss flag—she's done this since her son was small. One day she's out mowing her lawn when to her surprise she sees a scrap of paper in her yard. The engineer, a fellow named Bruno, sent her a note in which he says how much he enjoys seeing her greet his train every day. She writes him back c/o the railway, he chucks a present (a wheel of cheese), out the window of his 300 km/h train, and soon they've struck up a pen pal relationship. Could it lead to more?

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Meanwhile, Elise brushes off the overtures of Jacques, a young man who works in the dance school across the street from her bakery. He is young enough to be her grandson but seems to want to be her friend.


Tropes:

  • Bleak Abyss Retirement Home: Elise's son is trying to force her into one. He gives her the brochure for her birthday!
  • Call-Back: The technologically-averse Elise says early in the movie that she's never "sent an internet". At the end of the film, when she's finally gotten a computer and a modem in her little farmhouse, she says "I'm just about to send my first internet."
  • Creative Closing Credits: The closing credits are presented as names showing up on a railway station's flap display.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: A cranky, slightly bitter old lady defrosts and opens herself up to life again.
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  • Inspired by...: The film has an "inspired by true events" title card. At the end we see video of the real woman and the real train engineer.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Elise strikes up a friendship with Jacques, who looks to be 50 years younger than she is. At the end he has taken a job as a chef in her bakery.
  • Long-Distance Relationship: Elise falls in love with Bruno the engineer, based only on the sensitive letters that he tosses out the window of his train.
  • Loyal Animal Companion: Elise keeps a pet bird in a cage. She takes the bird with her when she bicycles to work.
  • The Noun and the Noun: "The Woman and the TGV"
  • Race for Your Love: Subverted. Elise gets Jacques to take her on a frantic race to the railway station so she can catch the Zurich train and see Bruno again. She makes it just in time, and sees Bruno—in a passenger car, with his wife. Both of them wave to her cheerfully as Elise realizes that she misinterpreted Bruno's letters.
  • Single Tear: After Elise calls the railway line and finds out that the routes have been changed, and Bruno's train will not pass by her house anymore.
  • Technologically Blind Elders: Elise wants to know how to contact Bruno. She calls customer service at the railway, and when the woman suggests that she look on the internet, Elise says "I've never sent an internet and I never will!"
  • Time Skip: "A few weeks later" finds a more cheerful Elise, having gotten over her disappointment, re-opening her bakery, having hired Jacques as a chef.
  • Train-Station Goodbye: A disappointed Elise trots after the train waving goodbye, after finding out that Bruno is Happily Married.
  • Voiceover Letter: Elise and Bruno's correspondence is heard in a series of voiceover letters.
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