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Review: A thin story undermines whimsical drama ‘This Beautiful Fantastic’

‘This Beautiful Fantastic’
Tom Wilkinson and Jessica Brown Findlay in “This Beautiful Fantastic.”
(MBI Distribution / Samuel Goldwyn Films)

Writer-director Simon Aboud’s “This Beautiful Fantastic” is most easily described as “Amélie Lite.” The plinky, fantastical score, careful compositions and stylized performances draw comparisons to Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s 2001 classic, but throw in a dark-haired, doe-eyed ingenue and the parallels are impossible to ignore. That inspiration, if you will, would be fine, but the thin story strains under the weight of all that whimsy.

The film takes place in present-day London, but its retro stylings feel like an earlier era. Bella (Jessica Brown Findlay) is an orphan who was left in a basket by the river. She’s grown up into an oddball loner, an aspiring writer who works in a library, perfect for her OCD tendencies, and has a serious phobia of flora and fauna. Problems arise when her cranky neighbor (Tom Wilkinson) complains to their landlord over the state of her overgrown garden.

As soon as you realize that the main conflict of the film is that a young woman has to do yard work for 30 days, it’s exceedingly difficult to muster up an appropriate amount of emotional investment.

Bella learns to let people into her life: cantankerous Alfie and a boy who makes bird robots (Jeremy Irvine), with whom she starts a romance.

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The friendship lessons are sweet enough, but such a low-stakes story strains one’s patience for such affected cinematic style.

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‘This Beautiful Fantastic’

Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes

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Rated: PG, for some thematic material and language

Playing: Laemmle Royal, West L.A.

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