PAPER SOULS(France/IFI/90mins)
Directed by Vincent Lannoo. Starring Stephane Guillon, Julie Gayet, Jonathan Zaccai, Pierre Richard, Jules Rotenberg, Claudine Baschet, Marc Olinger, Alain Azernot.
THE PLOT: Having lost his wife, and almost his will to live, five years ago, retired novelist Paul (Guillon) has turned his mourning into moolah by offering his services as a funeral speech writer. Living like a ghost suits Paul, with only his elderly neighbour Victor (Richard) aware of his sad existence. When a young widow, Emma (Gayet), comes to Paul with a request to write an account of her long-time deceased war-photographer husband’s life, as an 8th birthday gift for their young son (Rotenberg). Reluctant at first to take on the task, Paul is won over by Emma’s charm, and her close relationship with her son. After taking on the task though, Paul is soon visited by Emma’s supposedly dead husband…
A soft comedy about the hard reality of death, PAPER SOULS weaves a sweet amount of magic in its first half. Somehow though, like a slow death, that charm slips away gradually, as director Vincent Lannoo and writer Francois Uzan get muddled somewhere between the mystic and the mirth. We never learn the logic behind the dead man’s return, the joy here to be found in the interplay between Guillon and Gayet as they circle one another.
Review by Paul Byrne 

Paper Souls [Les Ames de Papier]
Review by Paul Byrne
3.0Charm slips away
  • filmbuff2011

    French comedy drama Paper Souls focuses on life, death and the middle ground in between. Paul (Stephane Guillon) is dour by nature, given that his profession involves writing funeral orations for the dead. Death is something that surrounds him, given that he also mourns the loss of his wife. Widow Emma (Julie Gayet, better known now as President Francois Hollande’s mistress) approaches him to write a piece for her young son, who mourns the loss of his father Nathan (Jonathan Zaccai). Nathan died in a land mine incident. Paul becomes drawn to Emma, but that is soon disrupted by the unexpected appearance of Nathan, very much alive and apparently not a ghost. Just what is going on here? That’s the kind of premise that wouldn’t be out of place in one of Woody Allen’s lighter films. It’s given a French spin here, with a dash of whimsy and bittersweetness. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t gel together. The performances, while spirited (in every sense), don’t really convince. Francois Uzan’s script is soufflé-light, while director Vincent Lannoo doesn’t seem to know how to explain the scenario in a logical sense. Suspension of disbelief is required here, but it’s unlikely to work. 90 minutes in the company of these characters is bearable, but not meaningful. Forgettable fluff. **