Stars: Romain Duris, Emma Mackey, Pierre Deladonchamps
Curious narrative choices topple this fanciful biopic of French civil engineering genius Gustave Eiffel. We first encounter Gustave (Duris, ee, he looks nowt like him!) in New York as the Statue of Liberty, which Gustave designed the metal framework for, is unveiled to the appreciative American people. Buoyed with success, he returns to Paris where the government is looking to create something spectacular for the 1889 Paris World Fair. Initially, Eiffel is set on building a metro system, but a meeting with old flame, the daughter of a wealthy family and proto-feminist Adrienne Bourgès (Mackey), inspires him to pitch the idea for a tower. The picture charts Eiffel’s attempts to complete the project, as he must overcome bureaucratic hurdles and placate a mutinous workforce. The drama flashes back intermittently to depict Gustave and Adrienne’s romance. Oddly the film feels most redolent of James Cameron’s Titanic in its uneven combination of sweeping historical class-traversing love story (totally made-up apparently) and loving CGI recreation of an engineering wonder. Mackey is a lot more convincing as a Paris society woman than the skint caravan park-dweller Maeve in ‘Sex Education’, but while there is an undeniable spark between the two leads, the romance feels like a distraction. There are a handful of moments of genuine wonder and awe in the, in turn, vertiginous and oppressively claustrophobic sequences of the tower being constructed.