Playful. Sweet. Silly. Delightful. These were words I jotted down as I watched The Fairy. I couldn't be bothered with constructing complete sentences because I was too busy smiling from ear to ear for the duration of the film. Filmmakers Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon and Bruno Romy use a firm foundation of physical and visual comedy to give us a touching tale that speaks to a bygone era while feeling timeless itself.
Dom (Dominique Abel) is going though another day of drudgery, working the night shift at a small French hotel when a woman approaches him with a most intriguing offer. Her name is Fiona (Fiona Gordon) and she claims to be a fairy. As part of her job description she offers him three wishes. He, in utter confusion, offers her a room. And so begins their unusual courtship. One skinny-dipping-and-underwater-dance-sequence (!!!) later, Dom is absolutely, positively in love. Unfortunately, the very next day he finds that Fiona has vanished without a trace. He'll have to get resourceful if he plans on finding her...besides she still owes him a wish.
If the boy meets girl / girl claims to be fairy who can grant wishes / boy loses girl story isn't novel enough, then prepare to be stunned by the sheer volume of laughs this expertly constructed film nudges our way. The description on the back of the DVD case drops names like Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Jacques Tati and I have to say that the comparisons are apt. Abel, Gordon and Romy (all sharing writing and directing credits) make evident the respect they have for the cinematic lineage they are part of while brilliantly giving it their own flair.
Slapstick rules the day as the film goes from setpiece to setpiece tossing quick visual gags and elaborately choreographed sequences our way with wild abandon. Not much is off-limits as the film makes no attempts to stay grounded in reality (having one of your leads be a fairy will have that effect). This doubles the impact of laughs that arrive unannounced and take you completely by surprise. While the energy level stays high and is constantly escalating, it stops short of being manic. This is partially achieved by moments of silly fantasy that disrupt the momentum just long enough to inject some more heart into the film. On a couple of occasions Dom and Fiona break into gleeful little dances that just make them even more endearing.
If the film just focused on Dom and Fiona, it would be entertaining enough. What elevates it is the attention to detail and the manner in which Dom and Fiona's world has been fleshed out with a group of characters that share their odd rhythms and idiosyncrasies. From the hotel guest who not-so-cleverly sticks his puppy in his bag to the shoe store clerk who just wants to take a break from her painful high heels, the film takes the time to carefully observe the secondary characters in a way that gives them rich inner worlds outside the scope of the film. Special mention must be made of Bruno Romy who appears as a near-sighted café owner. His first scene with Dom and Fiona was so perfectly executed that I laughed till I snorted...then I laughed some more.
Through all the laughs and sheer physicality on display (Fiona's got some moves), the facet that struck me the most about the film is how it elevated its characters and made them more than just human special effects. There isn't much dialogue in the film but there is a little exchange between Dom and Fiona that gets repeated a few times with increasing poignancy. I won't spoil it here but I will say that it reminded me of the oft-quoted John Lennon lyric from Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy): "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."