Review by Sean Boelman
There are plenty of biopics about fascinating figures from all eras in history, but the ways in which these true stories are adapted to the big screen are sometimes questionable. Martin Boruboulon’s Eiffel tells the story of its subject in a way that almost feels like fanfiction, albeit well-produced fanfiction at that.
The film tells the story of famous French civil engineer Gustave Eiffel as he designs the Eiffel Tower, one of the most iconic monuments in the world. For those who are interested in historical fiction, this story is passable, even though it does follow many of the same beats that any romance involving a historical figure has hit.
The structure of the movie incorporates a lot of flashbacks, and while it is relatively easy to follow what is happening, it’s also needlessly convoluted. For a romance that is extremely straightforward in nature, there is no good reason for the storytelling to be structured the way that it is.
In other countries, the film is known as “Eiffel in Love”, which is perhaps a more accurate description than simply the subject’s name. This isn’t really his life story, and it is only marginally about his greatest creation. Instead, the movie is about a fictionalized romance that supposedly inspired the creation of the Tower.
One would think that, with a fictional love interest having been created for Eiffel, that they would do something interesting with her. However, she is a predictably dull character, with little purpose other than to look pretty and motivate the protagonist. Emma Mackey is a phenomenally talented actress, but she struggles to make this role into anything more than eye candy.
It’s a shame, because her chemistry with Romaine Duris, who plays the eponymous brilliant scientific mind, is really strong. In fact, the film almost works better if you look at it as just a normal period romance outside of the scope of any actual historical context. It’s adequately steamy, even if there is little emotional connection.
The execution of the movie is also rather strong, although it doesn’t have much of a sense of style to it. The production design and costuming are solid, creating a believably immersive look into the past. And while there are some budget constraints that are evident in the scenes showing the Eiffel Tower, it’s not too distracting.
Eiffel is a passable work of historical fiction, but general audiences don’t need to rush out to see it. There’s nothing particularly odious about it, and it’s erotic enough, but it’s generic in a way that is hardly essential viewing.
Eiffel hits theaters on June 3.