What would you give to go back and experience any point in history however you wished? Time travel may be impossible, but considering the relentless march of technology and filmmaking it’s not inconceivable that a reasonable simulation could be created with relatively little fuss. La Belle Époque is about a company which does just that, using film sets, versatile actors and a ream of historical detail to recreate the past for wealthy clients.

The possibilities are endless and intriguing: why not return to WWII Germany and rewrite history so you defeat the Nazis, or reconnect with the father who died too soon? Writer-director Nicolas Bedos is aware of the bigotry inherent in wanting to go back to a “better time” – often a time when racism and sexism were more permissible – and neatly skewers those desires with a few of his example scenarios.

Victor’s (Daniel Auteuil) ‘belle époque’ is more innocent: he’s a technophobe whose wife Marianne (Fanny Ardant) is desperate to remain youthful and cutting edge. After a final – and clumsily sold – argument the two split, and a reluctant Victor agrees to try out the historical experience. His choice? To revisit the day he first met and fell in love with his wife.

Auteuil is great in the lead role, remaining sceptical of the charade but unable to resist its allure. Ardant is also entertaining, though she never truly humanises her character as much more than a cold and formidable loner. Guillaume Canet and Gloria Tillier are also superb with a feisty love/hate subplot that explores ideas of control and compromise.

Bedos’s script is hilarious, dealing in brutal put-downs that somehow manage to remain loving and performative. He also has endless fun with his great concept, packing the film with moments of joie de vivre to deliver an entertaining escapist fantasy with perceptive conclusions about nostalgia and relationships.



CAST: Daniel Auteuil, Guillaume Canet, Doria Tillier, Fanny Ardant, Pierre Arditi

DIRECTOR: Nicolas Bedos

WRITER: Nicolas Bedos

SYNOPSIS: A couple in crisis. He, disillusioned, sees his life upset the day an entrepreneur offers him to plunge back into the time of his choice.