Chinese Puzzle | Film review – Muddle and mishap when Romain Duris’s city-hopping writer lands in New York

Chinese Puzzle - Cécile de France & Romain Duris

Writer-director Cédric Klapisch has been chronicling the city-hopping romantic-comedy adventures of Romain Duris’s young Parisian writer Xavier and his multinational group of former student friends for more than a decade, touching down in Barcelona for an exchange year in 2002’s Pot Luck (L’auberge Espagnole), shuttling between Paris, London and St Petersburg in 2005 sequel Russian Dolls (Les Poupées russes) and now landing in New York for what one assumes is the concluding episode, Chinese Puzzle (Casse-tête chinois).

At every turn, Klapisch has put his hero through all manner of muddle and misfortune and he contrives more of the same here. Xavier goes to New York because his English wife, Wendy (Kelly Reilly), has left him for another man and taken their children with her. He fathers a child with his freewheeling lesbian friend Isabelle (Cécile de France) and her partner (Sandrine Holt); marries a Chinese-American woman to gain American citizenship; and finally reconnects with old flame Martine (Audrey Tautou).

You would be hard pressed to pack in more incident, yet despite this the story feels slight. And given the amount of time we’ve spent with them over the years, the characters are disappointingly shallow and so are the life lessons they learn. Fortunately, the most farcical episodes have a fizzy zest, while Klapisch delivers so many stylish and quirky touches throughout that it’s easy to overlook his film’s flaws. Oh, and Duris’s rumpled charm still works its magic, too.


Certificate 15. Runtime 117 mins. Director Cédric Klapisch.


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