Amélie Poulain (Audrey Tautou) finds an old tin box from the 1950s filled with childhood treasures hidden beneath the floorboards of her bathroom. After tracking down the owner she returns the box anonymously and after watching his reaction from a distance realizes how this small unexpected surprise transforms his life. Relishing her success Amélie makes the decision to transform the lives of the people around her some for the better and some for the worst and admires her achievements from a distance. But while Amélie is able to fix the lives of strangers she is a master at avoiding her own problems including her relationship with her father. She also becomes smitten with a man named Nino (Mathieu Kassovitz) who spends his days collecting unclaimed photos of people at train station photo booths. Amélie discovers that in order to win Nino's heart she will have to do it face-to-face rather than with behind-the-scenes manipulation.
Tautou who won a César (the French equivalent to an Oscar) for her role in 1999's Venus Beauty Institute is charming as the gamine Amélie and her performance is pivotal in getting across the film's sense of hope. She comes across as immensely sweet and curiously playful. Her love interest Nino is played by Kassovitz (The Fifth Element). An odd collector of anything unusual by day and part-time cashier at the "Palace Video King of Porno" by night Kassovitz is perfectly cast as Amélie's intriguing suitor. The supporting roles are also of top quality including the singularly named French actor Rufus (Delicatessen) who plays Amélie's cold father and town doctor; Serge Merlin as her neighbor whose congenital illness causes his bones to shatter like crystal; and Jamel Debbouze as an endive-loving grocery clerk. Each encompasses their characters to a tee and adds to the film's authenticity.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Delicatessen) took the romantic comedy formula and turned into a sweet original and entertaining film. Starting with a visually stunning montage of Amélie's childhood-which clearly explains her ability to sidestep reality-the movie surges ahead to the present without ever being predictable. We meet a colorful and lively Parisian neighborhood whose quirky denizens have lived there for generations. All the players are introduced by a hilarious voiceover describing their traits ("Joseph is a pathologically jealous character who only enjoys himself when he is popping bubble-wrap foils.") And while they are complex people and not always good they are endearing and genuine. The eclectic cast and colorful cinematography make Amélie a warmhearted movie without the usual sappiness that comes with almost every romantic comedy.