Chinese Puzzle Review
What’s It About? Xavier Rousseau (Romain Duris) is 40 and a father of two, and his life is still as complicated as ever. When the mother of his children, Wendy (Kelly Reilly), moves to New York to live with her new man, Xavier decides to follow. Yet he has no idea what life in New York requires, so he sets about finding a job and somewhere to live. Little by little his ex-flames come back into his life at moments that are both kind and cruel for him – New York, it’s a hell of a town.
Verdict: We were first introduced to the character of Xavier back in 2002’s L’Auberge Espagnole (Pot Luck) and then followed him again in 2005’s Les Poupees Russes (Russian Dolls), so by now we feel familiar with the character and his many lady friends. This time he is transported over the Atlantic and into the unfamiliar waters of the United States, and there are several times in the film where language and vocabulary do become a problem for him. At times this can be tough to watch as we understand the problems he’s facing when he struggles to even understand the local inhabitants.
As with the previous films, Chinese Puzzle works so well because of the interchange between the main characters. They come and go throughout the film, but all play significant part in shaping Xavier’s life for the future. Some of the most enjoyable moments are in one-to-one scenes between Xavier and the female characters because these wonderfully heartfelt talks seem to resonate outside the movie.
Chinese Puzzle is beautifully shot around the streets of New York; there are some amazing scenes on the rooftops with the Brooklyn Bridge acting as a backdrop. There is a constant buzz no matter where Xavier seems to find himself, even the local kids’ playground seems an anarchic yet fun place. Writer-director Cedric Klapisch never lets the direction drop below the tempo set way back in Pot Luck; it’s a steady groove all the characters effortlessly pour themselves into and it sets a specific tone between comedy and love which makes this a tender rom-com unlike the usual Hollywood fare.
Final Words: Much like Richard Linklater’s Before films, Klapisch’s direction demonstrates that different times in life are given over to issues that would never have been faced in prior years. Duris retains the slapstick comedy element to Xavier that we so loved in the previous films, yet his life has become more whole and real. It’s another wonderful look at the life of a man trying to find his way. A poignant tale of friends and family that will always be there for each other.
Chinese Puzzle screened as part of the 2013 London Film Festival. **Its UK cinema release date is 20 June 2014.**