Eiffel review – the French engineer’s story as corset-twanging romance

·1-min read

It’s a persistent area of movie myopia – the idea that science or maths or, in this case, engineering is, on its own, not sexy enough to carry a film. Thus portraits of some of the great minds of the 19th century – Mary Anning in Ammonite, and now engineer Gustave Eiffel – are retrofitted with a doomed romance. The way this conventionally handsome period picture tells it, a chance encounter between Eiffel (a tousled Romain Duris) and the long-lost love of his life, Adrienne (Emma Mackey), inspired the tower itself. Adrienne’s challenge to “be audacious” is the catalyst that prompts Eiffel to abandon his pitch for an egalitarian but unglamorous Métro system as his contribution to the 1889 world’s fair, and to dream big instead. Her initial – A – crafted from 7,300 tonnes of wrought iron, is permanently stamped on the Paris cityscape.

Eiffel is not unentertaining – it would pass the time pleasantly enough on a long-haul flight. Together, Duris and Mackey have a corset-twanging chemistry. But the foregrounding of a fictional romance over a feat of engineering does feel like a missed opportunity. The demure score is a case in point – it’s all decorative ribbons and lace where it could have taken rivets and girders as its inspiration and perhaps met the requirement to be audacious.