Directed by Martin Bourboulon and written by Caroline Bongrand, the government is asking Gustave Eiffel to design something spectacular for the 1889 Paris World Fair, but Eiffel simply wants to design the metro. Suddenly, everything changes when Eiffel crosses paths with a mysterious woman. Starring: Romain Duris, Emma Mackey, Pierre Deladonchamps, Armande Boulanger, Bruno Raffaelli, Alexandre Steiger, Andranic Manet and Philippe Hérisson.
One of the key questions when approaching a film such as this is: do you want it to be biographical and historical or do you want to use that basis and mould it into a fiery romantic affair?. Unfortunately, Eiffel couldn’t seem to pick between the two and unsuccessfully tries to do both. The result is a confused and uncommitted portrait of Gustave Eiffel (Romain Duris), indecisive of whether they want to focus on his achievements and dedication, or his obsession with Adrienne (Emma Mackey). The story opens very coldly, barely giving you a tangible introduction to Gustave and making a minimal impression, that is until Mackey’s Adrienne turns up and her immediate charm and warmth improves the atmosphere immensely. Sadly, that change in energy is not longed to last and fades away, letting the film slip into a stereotypical and rushed affair.
A huge factor in the struggle for Eiffel to make an impression is that the direction and cinematography are disappointingly bland. Where you usually might find a period film full of colour and vivacity, it’s quite the opposite here, the palette lacks variety and stays in a beige, dusky arena throughout. Another key issue is the editing, the progression feels entirely messy and poor, the scenes feel thrown together, as if it’s too busy thinking about what’s next to land the scene at hand. The transitions from one to another aren’t quite jarring but they have a similar affect in that they lack a natural flow. The entire directorial style and aesthetic again feel non-committal and unfocused, lacking a real reason for you to invest in this story.
It’s a shame as the performances themselves are well done but without the other elements to back them up, they can only go so far. Emma Mackey is the real highlight here, the film lacks any brightness, energy or charm until she appears. She brings an infectious youth to Adrienne and makes it beyond easy to understand Gustave’s immediate infatuation. Whereas for Romain Duris this feels very much the same as we’ve seen from him before. Blending passion with obstinance, confidence and relentlessness, it’s well done but it’s sadly too much along the same lines; not only for him as an actor but for so many male roles, and it’s rather forgettable. There’s unfortunately also not much of a focus on any supporting roles to fill out the personality or charisma to the film.
Eiffel tries to blend the romance of Paris with a biographical tale of the creation of the Eiffel tower but ends up missing out on both. It plays with history to add a tumultuous affair of the heart but the constant switch between affection and engineering is an unsatisfying combination. The colouring is bland, the direction lacks style and its atmosphere is minimal and cliched. Romain Duris and Emma Mackey do have a strong chemistry and Mackey in particular gives a great performance but they’re battling against the dulling affect of the style, and don’t come out winners.