In a sleepy Normandy fishing village a tentative romance blossoms between Angèle (Clotilde Hesme), an impulsive ex-con trying to win back custody of her young son, and Tony (Grégory Gadebois), an affable man of the sea who lives for the big catch and an easy life.
When Tony offers Angèle a place to stay and a job at the local fishing port she instantly recognises his down-to-earth humanity, the dependable rock she needs to anchor herself to in order to escape the self-destructive tendencies of her past. Unfussily directed by Alix Delaporte, making her debut feature film, Angel and Tony (Angèle et Tony) explores the possibility of love between seemingly incompatible characters and unfolds in a deceptively restrained manner that conceals the seismic emotional shifts occurring within the eponymous couple, one too timid to express their true feelings, the other too guarded.
i-D online spoke to Delaporte ahead of her film’s screening at this year’s Rendez-Vous with French Cinema festival.
Where did the initial idea come from? The character of Angèle came first. I had that girl on my mind for quite a long time – even when I was in film school – and I knew I was going to tell the story of Angèle because she was so deeply part of me. But it was never a script at that point.
What about the character of Tony? I didn’t know who he would be. Was he a doctor or a teacher? When I start to create a character I think, what is their job? What are they doing in their lives? I don’t know why it came like this, but I realised he was going to be a fisherman, and from there the story was very easy to write. I knew I was going to make that movie, even if I had to film it on my phone. When you spend so much time with a character it becomes like a friend, you know, or like a little brother or sister.
Does that make it difficult to hand the characters over to the actors? When I gave the Angèle part to Clotilde Hesme, she’d be rehearsing, and I be like ‘No, no, no! She’s not like this!’ We’d really fight about the character. I realised after a while, you know, that, even though it’s really painful, I had to let her go, because when you choose an actress like Clotilde she takes it and makes it very personal, which I was looking for. I didn’t want an actress who was going to always ask me ‘What do you want me to do?’ I wanted someone who would grab the character and make it their own. But this wasn’t easy for me, no.
Can you talk a bit about the setting? I grew up in Normandy and I spent all my holidays there, so those fisherman are part of my childhood memories; this is a place I know. I didn’t want a place too beautiful because I wouldn’t have anything to do. I wanted to reinvent the place. When I first took my team there, they had read the script before coming and they were like, ‘wow, it’s not easy.’
And this setting seems intrinsic to the story. The film wouldn’t have worked in Paris, say. There’s something really special about that sea. It’s not tranquil, and it changes many times during the day, so it gives something to the movie, a kind of suspense, because anything can happen. Throughout the film there’s a nagging sensation that things aren’t going to work out well for the couple and that’s partly to do with the place.
The unshowy form of the film – the music cues, the editing, the framing, etc. – seem to reflect the nature of the setting and the couple… Because nothing too sophisticated belongs with the story. You can’t put in some music that Tony and Angèle would not understand. You can’t just put the music you like in a movie like this. As soon as I tried to do anything fancy, some effects with my camera, or in the editing room, or with the music, it looked so pathetic. It’s like going ‘hello, I’m Alix Delaporte and I’m going to show you how interesting I am,’ and you lose the characters. I couldn’t move too much, I couldn’t show myself with tracking shots or whatever.
We never discover Angèle’s past – the crime she committed. Why is that? You can’t write without knowing the character’s history. I know Angèle’s crime, but the question is, am I going to say? You ask yourself this question when you are writing and in the end I didn’t. I knew that’s how I would prefer it but I wasn’t sure if it was possible. Some audience members want to know, some don’t. For me, if Tony doesn’t need to know, I don’t want the audience knowing. It’s sometimes too easy to reveal someone’s past and instantly put a label on them. Angèle did that, so she must be like this. It’s human to want to know the juicy details, we all love to gossip, but, for me, Tony is so beyond this that I couldn’t give it to you the audience.
Angel and Tony opens nationwide 4th May.
Text: Jamie Dunn