Life & Culture

Eiffel film review: Tall story with a sugar-coated finish

There is more swooning and less science in this saccharine account of how the iconic Paris landmark was built


Cert 15 | ★★✩✩✩

The story of how the Eiffel Tower came to be constructed is told in this well acted, if rather contrived biopic from French director Martin Bourboulon.

The film stars Romain Duris (The Beat That My Heart Skipped, Populaire) as Gustave Eiffel, the architect and designer whose company was behind the construction of Paris’s most iconic landmarks.

Franco-British actor Emma Mackey plays his love interest, while Armande Boulanger, who had a small role in Portrait of a Lady on Fire, is cast as his daughter Claire.

After the death of his wife, Gustave Eiffel throws himself into his work and aims to begin the construction of the Paris Metro, but with the 1889 World’s Fair fast approaching, Gustave feels pressured to compete with other for the chance of erecting a monument in Paris to commemorate the occasion.

Meanwhile, after a chance meeting at a formal dinner, Gustave is reacquainted with former love Adrienne Bourgès (Mackey) who is now married to an old acquaintance (Pierre Deladonchamps, excellent).

As well as being famed for the tower named after him, Gustave Eiffel also designed the metal framework for the Statue of Liberty which was later donated to the city of New York.

This detail is broached swiftly and in passing in the film, giving way instead to the convoluted, overly saccharine love story which makes up the bulk of the narrative. Forget engineering and history, we are left to wallow in the lovers’ tale.

Granted, there are some decent performances here from both Duris and Mackey who rarely put a foot wrong, but they are sadly let down by a facile screenplay which seeks to claim the love affair as the catalyst behind the existence of the tower.

This is not so much a biopic, as a Mills & Boons story masquerading as a bonafide slice of history and I was bored from the moment I realised where it was all heading.

I would have preferred less swooning, brooding and smooching and more science and history.

Of course if sickly romance is your thing, this is, bien sûr, the film for you.

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