Perfumes (‘Les Parfums’)

COMIC DRAMA; 1hr 40min (French with subtitles)

STARRING: Emmanuelle Devos, Grégory Montel

Nose to nose: Devos and Montel

Guillaume Favre (Call My Agent! ’s Montel, owning pained resignation) is in a pickle — or this being Paris, make that un cornichon. In order to secure equal custody of his 10-year-old daughter, Léa (heartbreaker-in-the-making Zélie Rixhon), he needs to relocate from his dogbox studio to something larger. To afford this he also needs the chauffeuring job to which he is clinging by a thread after the loss of licence points.


When he takes on the assignment of driving “nose” Anne Walberg (Devos), Guillaume is therefore in no position to complain, even though Anne is a diva with aloof demands who isn’t travelling too well herself: the sense of smell by which she makes her living is superlative when it’s firing and kaput when it’s not. Hence her humbling fall from star perfumer to the more mundane assignments of masking factory smoke and zhooshing the aroma of expensive handbags.


After a rocky start, driver and passenger form an outsiders’ bond that deepens like the notes of a great fragrance, tra-la, into a growing sense of trust whose bracing matter-of-factness, courtesy of writer-director Grégory Magne and his two low-key leads, is the chilled opposite of mainstream schmaltz.


Survivors can carry an unseen weight. Imperious Anne is secretly insecure while well-meaning Guillaume struggles to catch a break. The beauty of their blossoming friendship is its lesson in potential. Anne and Guillaume have far more to give together than they ever might have managed alone.