10 Life Lessons from the Fictional Life of Amélie Poulain

In a world lucky enough to be flooded with endless film choices, from the glamorous Hollywood productions to artful independents and foreign films, sometimes life-changing movies can fail to catch our eyes when we need them most.

However, once in a blue moon, a film gets the recognition it deserves and changes our lives in return. Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie has had eighteen years of love since its release in 2001 and I’m just here to keep it going.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story of Amélie, let me tell you about our quirky French heroine. And, if you’re lucky enough to be acquainted with the introverted Amélie Poulain (Audrey Tautou), please enjoy reminiscing with me.

The film starts us off with a child Amélie (Flora Guiet), sheltered by her father in his best efforts to keep her safe from a supposed heart condition. Unfortunately, this leaves her alone for most of her childhood. Now a woman, Amélie uses her fostered talent for finding the whimsy in the everyday—skipping stones and people-watching—to see the modern Montmartre with a mind like no other.

As the film’s narrator André Dussollier relays her thoughts, it is the “urge to help mankind” that consumes her and leads her to aid her fellow Parisians. Let’s say a Zorro mask and a black cape make a momentous appearance.

From an elderly artist preoccupied in his recreation of a Renoir painting to a strange book of pieced together photobooth-photos, our heroine undertakes each new adventure altering the lives of those she meets. But will her life be changed as well?

In one of the most sincere films to grace the screen in the last couple decades, Amélie shines a light on what it means to fall in love with a city and its people, and what it looks like to treasure this strange and lovely life.

With quotes directly from the film, here are ten life lessons to learn from the fictional life of Amélie Poulain:

1. Each day can hold a number of insignificant “perfect moments.”

That is, they’re there if you know where to look for them. But we get so caught up in the grandness, in the absolute of what we want, that we forget to savour the small things: a little light through tree leaves, the flutterings of a first snow, the taste of a fresh and juicy red raspberry. Look for these moments.

2. Fear should never be the sole reason for giving up.

“Failure teaches us that life is but a draft, a long rehearsal for a show that will never play,” but the wonderful thing is that each failure is only another step towards success. Take the right risks and know that feeling afraid is completely natural! Otherwise, you’ll never discover which door might open next.

3. “It’s better to help people than garden gnomes.”

Our modern society doesn’t often allow for the patience or the time needed to lend a helping hand. Yet, an honest compliment or five seconds of a listening ear can make all the difference to a person—though, not so much to a ceramic gnome.

4. Make something of your day.

“We pass the time of day to forget how time passes,” but what we choose to do during that time makes all the difference. Running small errands or completing a not-so-simple project can make you feel as though you’ve conquered the world.

5. “Your bones aren’t made of glass.”

You can survive more than you think whether it’s a bad break up, the loss of a loved one, wavering self confidence, loneliness, or just feeling lost. Whatever the case may be, however broken you may feel, note this simple truth: you are built of stronger stuff.

6. To dream is not a naivety.

When you’re a kid, you feel as though the whole world is yours. It’s all for the taking, but adulthood somehow tells us we’ve been wrong and that we’re dreaming far too big. They say, “Times are hard for dreamers.” And, perhaps, they’re right! But hard doesn’t mean impossible. It just means it’s a more rewarding dream and certainly one worth fighting for.

7. Fall in love with being alone.

Enjoying your own company doesn’t make you lonely; it makes you self-aware. Alone time is beneficial in how it helps us to understand what we like and don’t like and gives us a minute to recharge our human batteries. Go and “seek solitude!” Learn what makes you who you are.

8. Love is a funny business.

You can try planning it, chasing it down, ignoring it, crying over it, and so the list goes on. Whether your definition of love be of the Harlequin variety, a train of multiple unclinging romances, or you’re searching for your soulmate, love will remain deliciously unpredictable. Nonetheless, it’s nice to think “still, true love does exist.”

9. Read a little every day.

Books can be comforting; they can teach us how to cope with hard times, develop empathy and give us hope. Magazines can inform and entertain us, and newspapers can keep us up-to-date. Reading may not be the answer to everything, but it’s surely the best Band-Aid for life that we’ve got.

10. And if none of these lessons prove minorly helpful, remember this: “at least you’ll never be a vegetable.”

Because, let’s all admit it—being an artichoke would be an awful waste of a life.

For all the contemporary romantics left in the world and for all the film buffs, I propose we follow in the footsteps of our heroine Amélie Poulain. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll learn a little something in return.

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