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NOTE: This spoiler was sent in by - Odd Tree who says... "I hate this word but it describes the movie: "voluptuous." Amelie is a sensory overload of little images that mean nothing until fitted together into one beautiful picture.
A narrator begins the movie by describing an ordinary day in Montmatre, in which normal things happen, including Amelie's conception and her consequent birth nine months later. Amelie's parents are quirky people, as detailed in their "likes" and "dislikes" by the narrator; Amelie's father Raphaël is a doctor, an emotionally detached man and her mother Amandine is a schoolmistress with a nervous tic in her eye. Amelie's father gave her yearly check-ups, and his nearness made her so nervous (because her parents were not demonstrative in their love, and Amelie wanted to be hugged) that her heart would beat very fast. So, Amelie's father diagnosed her with a heart problem, and because of that she wasn't sent to school but was instead taught at home by her mother. One day, when Amelie's mother brought her to Notre Dame to pray for a little brother or sister, the mother was killed when a suicide jumping off landed on her. Amelie's father became obsessed with building a shrine to her ashes.
So years passed until we see a twenty-something Amelie (Audrey Tatou), out on her own, a waitress at the Two Windmills Café. She enjoys the quiet pleasures in life, the sensuous but not the sensual, like skipping stones; throughout the movie, Amelie would have the habit of picking up flat pieces of rock from places to keep in her pocket to be used later.
Here the movie introdues the secondary characters. There's the Glass Man, Dufayel (Serge Merlin) who lives in the building next to Amelie's, whose bones are so brittle that he hasn't ventured outside in twenty years, only sits in his apartment and paint reinditions of Renoir's paintings. There's the harsh-mouthed grocer downstairs with his apprentice Lucien, a quiet boy that is rather like Amelie in his simple enjoyment of fruits and vegetables. There's Amelie's friend, There are the women that Amelie works with: Suzanne, the proprietoress; Gina, the waitress with the jealous ex-boyfriend Joseph that sits in the café and records her every move and exchanges with men; Georgette, the hypochondriac that sits and sells tobacco and scratch lottery tickets, and Hipolite, a regular who's also a writer that's received his 30th rejection letter recently.
Everything in Amelie's life changes when one day, in 1997, she's washing up in the bathroom and she hears of Princess Diana's death. She drops the cap of her perfume, and it rolls near the toilet to hit against a tile, loosening it. When Amelie pries open the tile, she discovers behind it a child's tin box from 40 years ago, which holds all of the child's treasures. Amelie decides to return the box and goes on an expedition to find who inhabited her apartment all those years ago.
She talks to the concierge, a woman named Madeleine Walls (Yolande Moreau). Ms. Walls bids Amelie in and tells Amelie of her sad history, in which her husband was sleeping with his secretary, embezzling money for the woman's extravagant tastes; they ran off to the Bahamas or some such country, and then both died in an accident. Ms. Walls keeps all of her husband's old love letters and reads one to Amelie, in which she demands if Amelie has ever been loved like that. But she directs Amelie to the grocer who would know of Amelie's apartment's former occupant, and the grocer directs her to his mother who in turn tells her that it's a man named Bredoteau. Amelie finds all the Bredoteaux in the phonebook but to no success; she returns to her building only to be interrupted by her neighbor, Dufayel, who tells her that it's not Bredoteau but Bretodeau. We then meet Bretodeau, who's introduced a lot like the other characters with his own quirk: every Wednesday, he buys a chicken and roasts it, cutting it apart to eat the meat with his fingers. On one of his walks to the market, Amelie calls the phone booth near him and he answers out of curiousity; there's no one there but on the corner shelf near the phone, he sees the tin box. From another phone booth, Amelie observes the man's reaction (he cries) and is so moved by it that she decides from now to do good.
On one of her visits home, she sees the blind man that always sits at the train station by the road. She grabs him by the arm and helps him across the street, meanwhile describing rapidly of the scenes of daily life that's occuring right around them: the beef is this much and the chicken is this much, and to the right there's a baby watching a dog who's watching a roasted turkey in the window. She leaves him, almost fleeing away, but we see the man's joy at someone noticing him and at this gift of sight that Amelie has temporarily given him. At the train station Amelie sees a man, who we learn is called Nino Quincampoix (Mathieu Kassovitz) digging under the picture booth; he's sweeping out the dusts underneath and sifting through it. She's curious, but is afraid; so she runs home, where she eats with her father in an awkward, tense sort of silence to which both of them is used to. Amelie's father wants to travel (he says that they've always wanted to traveled but could not, because of Amelie's [nonexistant] heart problem); then he shows her a gnome that he'd received a long time ago, but had put away in the shed since Amandine hadn't liked it. He decides to set it up near Amandine's shrine, and they both go out to see it placed with solemnity atop the mound. Her father's concentration upsets Amelie, because he's paying more attention to the gnome than her; she returns home, and sees herself being spoken about in an obituary-like how the great, kind, and loving Amelie Poulain has finally given up her compassion and "died," joining the cruel and emotionless world.
But Amelie befriends the Glass Man and learns that he has painted a picture a year, but is having difficulty in drawing the expression of the girl drinking from a glass. Amelie makes suggestions, and it's through her suggestions that perhaps the girl is thinking of someone else, someone not in the picture-that we realize she sees herself as the girl, and throughout the movie the girl is a metaphor that the Dufayel and she uses for Amelie. She is once again encouraged to help out the people in her life; she tapes shows of the outside for Dufayel, in which a horse is racing a team of bicyclists, in which a man with one wooden leg tap-dances joyfully. For the grocer downstairs who belittles and humiliates his assistant, Amelie sneaks into his apartment (she found the key one day, and was about to return it downstairs when the grocer makes fun of the assistant-and it was too much, so Amelie goes and makes a copy of the key). She changes the knobs on his bathroom door, switch the toothpaste and the food cream, dumps salt/sugar into his wine, and turns his clock several hours. For the hypochondriac Georgette and the jealous ex at the café, Amelie plots to bring them together, dropping hints to the man and gossips to the kiosk lady who in turn gossiped to Georgette. The kiosk is important because on one of the scandal sheets is where Amelie sees the article that a plane crash from the 1970s had been discovered, with mail inside that was never delivered. On her father's side, Amelie steals the garden gnome from her father's place, but running back to the station, discovers that it was closed so she had to sleep in the photo booth. Later on, her father receives a picture of the gnome in front of one of the famous buildings in Moscow; pictures from New York and Cambodia soon follow. The person who was taking the gnome "around the world," so to speak, was Amelie's flight attendant friend, and one day when the father woke up, the gnome was back in his place.
One day, at the train station, Amelie sees the man from the photo booth. Nino is running after another man, and she runs after both of them, only to have Nino riding away on his motorcycle/scooter but dropping a case behind. Inside the case is Nino's pasttime; he takes the pictures that people discard from the photo booth, and puts them together to paste into his album. Amelie shares the discovery with Dufayel, pointing out to him the same man with the blank, belligerent face that repeats over five, six times in the book; her theory is that he's a dead man who took all those photos so that the living could find him, and remember him. By now Amelie has a crush on Nino, and it is one day when she sees a lost ad in the station that she decides to call Nino. The number she dialed is a porn shop, and she is so flustered that she hung up; but she goes to the porn shop to see Nino, to be told by Nino's co-worker something of him: that he is a romantic, and that he works at the carnival on those certain days. She goes to the carnival, and leaves Nino a picture that she'd found from the photo booths, and a message to meet her to get his album back. This begins a cat and mouse game; in one moment, Amelie leads Nino up a winding hill only to end at a mime pointing to one of those coin-operated binocular machines, into which Nino looks only to see that down below, the mysterious woman putting the album into his pouch on his motorcycle. Amelie has left him a collage of sorts, with her in a scarf and sunglasses from the photo booth, writing "Do you want to meet me?" But she hasn't left a name or anything, so the next time she goes to the station the walls are covered with signs: "Where, and when?"
In between all of ths, Amelie does more good deeds; she brings Georgette and Joseph together, but his jealousy will suffocate them. The grocer hasn't learned to be kind, although since Lucien is taking painting lessons from Dufayel, Dufayel does his gruff best to teach Lucien some backbone. However, Amelie sneaks back into his apartment and changes his slippers into a smaller size, changes his bright lightbuilbs into dim ones, and cuts one of his cords. For the concierge Madeleine, Amelie remembers the letters that the husband had written, and she sneaks into the woman's home to take those letters. She reads all of them, then photocopies them; she cuts them up, pastes the desired sentences together, and photocopies the finished work, and then soaks it in tea to add the proper brownness.
The letter is then sent to Madeleine, who no longer feels abandoned because now she believes that her husband had admitted to his error and was returning to her.
Digging around again, Nino finds a picture of Amelie, still in the scarf and sunglasses, holding a sign to tell him to meet her at the café at a certain time. However, when he comes, she is shy and reluctant to talk; Amelie has Gina slip a note into Nino's pocket, which the jealous ex-boyfriend sees. Nino doesn't read the note until he has to ask one of his porn-shop co-workers to cover for him; the note tells him to meet her at the station at 4. We see Amelie jamming the photo booth and calling for it to be fixed; she has discovered the strange man's identity, and as Nino walks into the station, he sees the man's feet behind the curtains and the flashes of the camera; he grabs the picture that falls out, sees that it's the man that he's been wandering about
pulls aside the curtain to see that the man is the fixer-upper of the photo booth. It's apparently been some mystery to Nino who this man was. He goes to the café to find Amelie, but she isn't there; Gina then whispers for him to meet her, to talk about Amelie; the ex-boyfriend once again hears. So Gina and Nino meet and talk of proverbs (Gina's reasoning: she likes Nino for Amelie, and wants to see if he's bad; but a man who knows his proverbs can't be bad, as her family once said). Amelie returns to the café only to be told that Nino has left with Gina, and she returns to her apartment, sad and heartbroken. But there's a knock on her door, and it's Nino; Amelie doesn't open it, but Nino leaves a note telling her that he will return; she goes to the window, and watches him as he walks away in the street below. She stays in a stupor until Dufayel calls her, and tells her to go into the bedroom. In the bedroom is a TV that Dufayel has set up, in which he tapes himself giving her advice: that Amelie has a great chance for love and shouldn't be a coward; she is whole of body, unlike Dufayel, and should seize the love when it comes. She realizes it, and runs to the window but Nino has already disappeared from the street below; she throws open the door to chase after him, but he is there. She pulls him inside, where they kiss; we see Nino sleeping contentedly, and Amelie drawing him closer to her in bed.
It's not the end. We see Amelie's father closing the gate to his property, with two suitcases beside him and a cab taking him to the International Airport; we see Bretodeau with his estranged daughter and grandchild, where he is religiously cutting the meat and feeding the laughing child with his fingers; we see Hipolite walking down the street and seeing a quote of his scrawled upon the wall like they do with the famous authors; we see Amelie and Nino riding on Nino's motorcycle, where they are both laughing and in love.
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