The delightful, almost quaint, Oscar-nominated French feature Amelie, featured one of the best protagonists of all time. A hopeless romantic with a quiet understanding of the harshness of reality, her indomitable spirit defines her. With a mischievous streak that goes hand in hand with her childlike curiosity, Amelie’s personality is like an ode to the inherent independence that comes with innocence. Her heart of gold fuels her mission to make the world feel more welcoming than it is, and through the journey she grows into solitude comfortably.
Amelie’s backstory is sad, if not absolutely tragic. She is confined due to unavoidable circumstances, and what little time she can spend outside, vanishes when her mother passes away in a rather unfortunate accident. Loneliness is quite obviously not a foreign concept to her, given how it is circumstantially forced upon her forever. This reflects in her inability to connect with others and her ability to unapologetically be herself. While it is difficult for her to get absorbed in others’ lives, she has an ability to notice loneliness in others, which actually fuels her compassion.
Then comes the opportunity to use that uncanny ability to relate to and empathise with people without personally bonding with them. The smile she brings to the man’s face possibly gives her a purpose, one that dictates all her actions. The sudden realisation that even if everyone was lonely, they could feel less lonely because of others’ actions is what changes her forever. From there, it is a non-stop serendipitous journey of delivering joy to others – which makes her feel less alone too.
Whether it is messing with the shopkeeper to punish him for mistreating the boy, or taking the man on a wild goose chase for his lost album, her mischievous streak never dies out, and despite a few moments of heartbreak, she never stopped believing. That is what’s most powerful about her. Granted, the world of the film is pretty much fictional and real life is often much harsher, but she has had to live through the death of her mother at an early age, and her father’s abandonment, from an even earlier age. Maybe instead of dismissing her strength, we can learn from her to not let the childlike curiosity, which keeps us alive, absolutely disappear.
The things she does purely out of a need to know the world is less lonely because she is in it – like sending TV recordings to the lonely painter and fake letters to the widow – also make her more comfortable with being lonely. Of course she feels broken when her prayers about love and a true connection are not answered, but I think her wish to finally bond with someone personally was fuelled more by the fact that she could, rather than the fact that she needed to. Her pursuit is no longer about feeling less lonely because she feels connected from a distance to those whose lives she meddled in, and it is more about experiencing the joyous emotion of a shared love.
The lady in the painting simultaneously makes her self-conscious and self-confident. Here is a woman who clearly doesn’t belong and yet she is neither ashamed of it, nor daunted by it. Amelie probably feels appreciated in her solitude, and even if she makes it her aim to reduce people’s loneliness to feel less alone, she also derives pleasure in being able to be herself without having to deal with anyone personally. Her actions could be taken negatively by someone as she poked her nose where it didn’t belong, and being alone allows her to continue in her own awkward and loving manner.
Because of Amelie, so many people get to experience a respite from loneliness and that is one of the best gifts one could possibly receive. She chooses to believe in the good in the world, and because she participates in it, it isn’t necessarily very difficult to do either. Fuelled by that belief, she makes the world a much better place than it was before her, without really making any huge ripples. The fact is, bringing a smile to a person’s face is a noble motivation, and while eradicating diseases with vaccines is an extremely noble pursuit, the former isn’t a very unimportant one either.
Amelie teaches us that it’s okay to make a small difference. Doing something just because no one else is, and because it matters, even if just to one single person, is truly a noble pursuit. Even if manipulating her father into leaving for a trip wasn’t the best way to go about doing it, she at least got him to live the life he deserved to. So while her methods are questionable, and sometimes her motivations too, one can’t deny that her comfort in solitude and her characteristic creativity gave her a really interesting life, dedicated towards removing the loneliness that defined her childhood. Her desperation is possibly uncomfortable, but her optimism is more infectious than annoying.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.