by Ravi Ahuja
Somewhere in the snowy north of Canada, a woman is telling a secret to her niece, “I’m going away to live in Paris.” The child agrees without much thought saying, “I’m going to live in Paris too.” Decades later, the child, Fiona, now a grown woman and a librarian, is still stuck in the same cold and desolate part of Canada. One day, the door blows open with the mail and Fiona receives word from her aunt Martha. After 48 years of living alone in Paris, ‘they’ want her to live in an assisted living facility. The letter ends with just the word “help”. And like that, Fiona’s journey to Paris begins.
Fiona (Fiona Gordon) gets a picture taken in Paris
Fiona’s trip to Paris is far from simple, losing her comically oversized rucksack on the first day, and being unable to contact or find her aunt. In the midst of her panic and desperation, she finds a few people who are able to help her, not the least of whom is a charming vagabond named Dom who comes across her rucksack. Dom is not the most convenient helping hand, often misunderstanding Fiona’s broken French and stealing her things upon first encounter. Still, the two are drawn together time and time again through both coincidence and their efforts to find Martha. Fiona Gordon and Dominique Abel are not just lead actors through this movie, but also co-writers, directors, and producers, Lost in Paris being their fourth film written together. While the side actors do a fine job, it is unmistakably Dom and Fiona’s movie, with their energy and personality dominating the feel and essence of the movie. Their acting is, as one might imagine, a perfect fit for the deadpan comedic writing of the film, with any scene featuring the both of them being sure to elicit a smile.
Dom (Dominique Abel) and Fiona dance at a floating restaurant
There isn’t too much more to say about the plot of Lost in Paris, but then that’s not its greatest draw. The movie is great fun, working off of constant physical and visual gags reminiscent of Chaplin and Tati. When the mail arrives in the opening, the door literally blows open with a gust of wind, causing everyone inside to exaggeratedly hang onto something. The acting, delivery, and setting of Lost in Paris also always work together to great comedic effect. Due to an innocent misunderstanding and some bad timing, Martha’s neighbor, Martin, is caught by Fiona and the police going through Martha’s underwear. Perhaps my favorite set-piece is the floating restaurant where Fiona and Dom meet. There are so many threads of visual, physical, awkward, and ironic humor interweaving through the whole dinner until the inevitable climax where Fiona realizes Dom has all of her belongings, and the pacing and humor works terrifically.
Fiona sits in front of a door
Besides just the old-school physical humor, Lost in Paris is also made great through its neat and colorful visual style. There is an emphasis on bright primary colors and clean, simple compositions. The overall effect is not unlike a watered down Wes Anderson, providing a similar innocent storybook feel to the story. I am reminded also of Amélie in how its bright, colorful visual style is used to help make the viewer fall in love with Paris as a city and a setting. Paris comes across as such a blend of small and big, modern and vintage, clean and dirty, and this is represented not only through the physical details on screen but the characters that live in it. Dom is a roguish, independent vagrant of Paris, and yet he falls in love with the polite and naïve woman from Canada.
Dom, Martha (Emmanuelle Riva), and Fiona sitting on a beam
Lost in Paris is short, fast-paced, and light, caring more about delighting its audience than making them think. Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon do a fantastic job of keeping the film fun and fresh with their performances the whole way through. Fans of Tati and Chaplin, or anyone looking for a whimsical, old-fashioned rom-com should be sure to give the movie a watch. Lost in Paris is streaming now on certain Kanopy memberships.