Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • 12A
  • Comedy, Romance
  • 2012
  • 110 mins




In 1950s France, a klutzy-but-cute country girl (Deborah Francois) is saved from the breadline when her suave insurance man boss (Romain Duris) discovers a hidden talent: her prodigious typewriting speed.


A frothy, nostalgic throwback to the glamorous rom-coms of yesteryear may seem like an unlikely battleground for the latest skirmish in the ongoing filmic war between France and America, but Régis Roinsard’s Populaire is just as obsessed with post-war emasculation as it is with pretty dresses, urban chic and the burgeoning empowerment of the working woman.

Deborah Francois, the Belgian actress who caught Cannes’ attention in the Dardennes’ L’Enfant and the psycho-sexual thriller The Page Turner, is delightfully ditzy as Rose Pamphyle, the country-bumpkin-turned-secretary whose record-breaking typing speed is a ticket to stardom for both her and her boss. However, Romain Duris (The Beat That My Heart Skipped) isn’t exactly a very convincing romantic partner, probably because his character, the stubborn insurance broker Louis Échard, is nursing a wounded ego after his country was occupied in World War 2 and liberated by, you guessed it, the Americans.

Populaire is a beautiful-looking film, with superb period costumes and production design, and as a featherlight genre riff that marries Rocky-like sports-movie moments to the functional art of typewriting, it is wholly unique and utterly charming. But, time and again, the film boomerangs back to its not-so-subtextual transatlantic sortie. Just when you feel ready to be whisked away by its lilting romance, it’s there: Louis’ motivation for encouraging Rose partly comes from his ongoing macho feud with a former American GI who came over in 1944 and didn’t just help liberate France and later make it his home, but dared to marry our hero’s first love (a somewhat wasted Berenice Bejo, whose appearance seems to be chiefly to invite comparisons to a similar period piece, The Artist).

This thematic throughline wouldn’t be such a drag if Roinsard had written a good, old-fashioned love story to go along with it, but in Populaire both the pride and prejudice of the couple’s romance are the man’s, and the emotional shortcomings he has to resolve aren’t, in fact, all that much to do with his super-cute lady-friend. Rose, meanwhile, falls for him seemingly from the off, so spends the majority of the film pratfalling about, hoping to grab Her Man’s attention. Instead, her personal challenge is more a case of dexterity - one that the film inflates to fill two hours of regional heats, national competitions, and even an international world tournament that takes the act Stateside.

There are flashes throughout of style, wit, and even sensuality as Rose experiences a flush of fame and becomes an icon to a new generation of sexy secretaries - but, when Rose’s success starts to become dwarfed by Louis’ rediscovery of his manhood, it becomes clear that, while this is supposedly a woman’s story, the typewriting fingers that bashed out its screenplay belonged to men.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Berenice Bejo, Romain Duris, Deborah Francois

In a nutshell

A cute, glamorous and ‘qwerky’ French fancy that features a delightful performance from Deborah Francois, but Populaire's charms are overshadowed by a Gallic inferiority complex.

by Michael Leader

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4

    Thunder Island

    Thriller. A hit man (Gene Nelson) is hired to kill a former Caribbean dictator. He abducts a couple and their boat to reach the despot's island, but then his plans go badly wrong.

    On Film4: 6 Oct 11:00AM

  • Film4

    The Enchanted Forest

    An old man raises a young boy who became lost in the woods, teaching him about life and nature

  • Channel 4 Blog

    TIFF: five favourites

    Elena Lazic reports from the Toronto International Film festival on her five favourites of the fest. The Lobster Yorgos Lanthimos' success in realising the usually disastrous combination of farci

  • Channel 4 Blog

    TIFF: five favourites

    Manuela Lazic reports from the Toronto International Film Festival on five favourites from the fest. The Witch What if the sorceresses and deadly spells in which people believed so fervently in th

Register with

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Tweets @Film4

  • Our late-night highlight at 2.20am is South Korean director Hong Sang-soo's comedy-drama Oki's Movie.

  • @Scannain_com @Sandyshark But it's likely we'll show it again in the future.

  • @Scannain_com @Sandyshark Not tomorrow, sorry. This is a late-night repeat after our first play at the beginning of September.

  • "I hope that people can see me for who I really am." Up next at 10.50pm, Amanda Seyfried stars in Lovelace.

  • Later tonight at 12.35am, we're screening @LennyAbrahamson's Irish drama What Richard Did, starring Jack Reynor.