Jeanne And Her Machine

“Woman married the Eifel Tower”, “Woman falls in love with her briefcase”, “Woman marrying a chandelier”. Those headlines could easily have been the storyline of a movie, but they were real-life experiences. Those unconventional love stories were already the inspiration for many documentaries, but never the heart of a film until now. Writer/director Zoé Wittock decided to loosely base her debut film on the story of a woman who falls in love with a theme park attraction. The result: An excellent and entertaining ride!

Are you also a big fan of amusement parks where you can enjoy thrilling rides, eye-catching parades and delicious candyfloss? We certainly are! But did you ever wonder what it’s like when the park closes? Well, Jeanne (Noémie Merlant) shows you but not in the way you would expect. She’s not so keen on human relationships as she prefers the company of the park attractions. It seems that the love is mutual because one night, ‘Move It’, the brand-new attraction comes to life, and that’s the beginning of a strange relationship.

Jeanne totally blossoms, and her mum (Emmanuelle Bercot) notices that she’s in love. But not with her potential real boyfriend/colleague Marc (Bastien Bouillon), but with ‘Move it’ (nicknamed Jumbo). The heart wants what the heart wants and you can’t change anything about that. Sadly, the unorthodox relationship doesn’t go down well with Jeanne’s mother, which results in many heart-breaking fights. Jeanne now faces the most challenging question: Choosing her mother over the love of her life or continuing the romantic relationship without any support?

On paper, the film is about a woman falling in love with a machine so you might wonder whether it’s possible to connect with “Jumbo”. However, when you take a closer look at it, you realize that there’s so much more to the film than what meets the eye, and it’s all brought beautifully to life in multiple ways.

What makes this movie so captivating is the beautiful and heartfelt performance of Merlant (“Mi Iubita Mon Amour”, “Paper Flags”) as the timid lead character. Merlant might sound familiar to you, but when looking at her, you just can’t put your finger on it where you know her from. Well, let’s put you out of your misery. Merlant put on a stunning portrayal in “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”. Because of her subtle and emotional acting, you get to know more about Jeanne than you would expect.

Yes, it’s clear that Jeanne feels physical pleasure from an amusement park attraction. However, you also find out that she lacks the emotional capability of loving a person and while it’s never confirmed, she might also have some autistic character traits. Because of Marant emotional openness and sincerity, you will never mock Jeanne because of who she’s and who (or what) she falls in love with. It doesn’t matter how weird people can be, they all deserve to be in love, to be happy and to be able to become the person they want to be, right?

The other big and human acting performance in “Jumbo” comes from Bercot (“Mon Roi”, “Clement” as Jeanne’s free-spirited mother whose lifestyle mainly consists of smoking, drinking and enjoying some male company. While Bercot’s acting might be a little bit over the top at some points, her performance becomes more nuanced and fascinating towards the end when her on-screen character and Jeanne are trying to find a solution together. But will that solution work, or will it drive a bigger wedge between Jeanne and her mum? That remains the question.

We all know how important communication is during a relationship. The newly pair certainly knows how to communicate openly and entertainingly: By using colourful light bulbs, rapid movement and pitch-black oil. Because of that, the cinematography had to be on-point in “Jumbo”, and that’s precisely what it is, thanks to a combination of the stunning work of Thomas Buelens (“All Cats Are Grey”, “Christmas in Paris”) and Wittock’s close-ups. Their vibrant (mainly red and green) scenes mesmerise you instantly, and thanks to the fast-spinning movement and the upbeat music by Thomas Roussel (“La pièce manquante”, “Take-Away Romance”), you will be trapped into a spinning wheel of emotions and colours.

“Jumbo” has been around since the beginning of last year as it was screened at multiple festivals such as Sundance Film Festival (where it received its world premiere), Chattanooga Film Festival (during which it won the award for ‘Best Film’) and Cyprus Film Days International Festival (that awarded Wittock with the Best Director Award) and now it landed in U.K. cinemas. While the subject might not seem relatable, thanks to the unlikely love story, delightful and bright cinematography, “Jumbo” becomes a vivid and emotional debut film.

Jeanne, a shy young woman, works in an amusement park. Fascinated with carousels, she still lives at home with her mother. That's when Jeanne meets Jumbo, the park's new flagship attraction.

9th July 2021

Zoé Wittock

Zoé Wittock

Running Time:
1hr 33min

Have your say