Although I admit my exposure to foreign films is miniscule, it is pretty much a guarantee that any film set in France, in particular Paris, is going to pique my interest.
Italian Paolo is content with his life. He lives with his German girlfriend Greta in Paris, has a steady job as a tour bus driver and a dependable if not so good advisor in English friend Derek. After finally proposing to Greta, he finds himself continually crossing paths with the lovely Cecile. Although he is in love with Greta, Paolo cannot helped but be intrigued by the girl riding the bicycle. One day, while in pursuit of her, he accidentally hits her with his bus, which throws his life completely off course.
At the hospital, he informs the nurse that Cecile is his wife so that he can get information on her condition, (a la While You Were Sleeping). When the nurse escorts him into Cecile’s room, her young children immediately greet him with hugs and cries of “Papa!” You see, Cecile has always told her children that their father is off fighting dragons, but when he returns they will know him because he speaks English. Upon her release from the hospital, Paolo takes Cecile and the children to their home and finds himself in the predicament of caring for her and the children secretly while also trying to maintain his relationship with Greta, who begins to suspect that Paolo is hiding something important from her.
This little romantic comedy is quite entertaining. Despite the fact that the film puts Paolo through the ringer emotionally and physically (he is essentially maintaining two households and lifestyles), it has an overall lighthearted feel. Paolo’s deception could make the viewer and the other film characters angry and distrustful of him, yet we catch glimpses of his true character as he cares for Cecile, falls in love with her children, while also coming to the realization that the grass is not always greener on the other side.
The other actors in this film all play their individual roles to perfection, and it is through their eyes that we see the real Paolo. The actress who plays the German Greta reminded me very much of Amy Adams, not only in appearance but in some of her mannerisms. Her Greta does a great job in handling her suspicions of her fiance while also continuing to speak of Paolo with respect.
The only face that was familiar to me was English actor Paddy Considine who plays Paolo’s friend Derek. He gets to play one of my favorite funny scenes in the film when some strangers stop him to ask for directions on the street and have the gall to speak to him in English.
I love that Girl on a Bicycle is set in Paris, but I also appreciated the international cast. Not only do we have French citizens speaking French, but we also get an Italian, a German and an Englishman who all break out into their own languages from time to time, which is part of the film’s charm. America may be the world’s melting pot, but this little movie is truly international and the first time I’ve seen this displayed so effortlessly on film. In fact, even though this is a foreign film, I was continually surprised by the fact that the dialogue is mainly English. One thing that really tickled me was the few little stereotypical jokes that were made about Germans. These are some of the same jokes I’ve heard in my own German household.
Although this is a sweet film, I will caution you that there is some swearing as well as a few sex scenes and one instance of female nudity. The nude scene is not sexual in nature and I suppose is more common in foreign films. The sex scenes are not particularly graphic, nothing more than we’ve seen in American films, but still I would have preferred the film had avoided these scenes as they are not necessary to the story.
This film is currently streaming for free with Amazon Prime.