Dir/scr: Cedric Klapisch,Fr-UK. 2005. 125mins.

We last saw Xavier(Romain Duris) five years ago at the end of L'Auberge Espagnole,literally running away from his new life as a civil servant. After the youthfulexuberance of his time in Barcelona chronicled in that film, who'd want tomeasure out their life with coffee spoons' Not Xavier, who is still unable tofind his niche.

Picking up half a decadeafter the events of L'Auberge Espagnole, Cedric Klapisch's sequelcontinues in the same light-hearted, Gen X vein, resulting in a mostlyentertaining, episodic film with hilarious moments of magical realism. The filmcombines farce, romance and not a little drama that despite its exoticEuro-pudding mix, is at its heart a fairly conventional romantic comedy.

Box office should be quitestrong around the continent among the targeted 15-35-year-old demographic,particularly given the fanbase of the first film, but also its attractive imageof a fun, easy-going date movie for the summer. English-speaking subtitle-phobesshouldn't be too put-off, as almost half the pic is in English.

Though the first one wasmore of an ensemble, Russian Dolls narrows its view to a few of thecharacters from the last film.

Told in flashback, and eventhen not content to stay chronological, Xavier explains in voiceover that theroommates from his Barcelona days have met up in St Petersburg where one ofthem is marrying a Russian ballet dancer.

But before we get to StPetersburg, the film backtracks; Xavier is splitting his time between twowriting jobs, working as a memoir ghostwriter and a screenwriter for a cornyFrench TV movie. Soon this TV movie is turned into a BBC co-production, andXavier spend much of the film criss-crossing the channel between Paris andLondon working on the script in English with Wendy, (Kelly Reilly), a roommatefrom the first film, and helping a sexy, spoiled young model (Lucy Gordon)putting together her memoirs.

Along the way, both conflictand hijinks ensue as Xavier deals his existential questions and his attractionto both women.

Sharing the spirit (as wellas some significant plot points) of High Fidelity, Russian Dollslikewise uses the concept of revisiting past relationships to understand one'spresent identity crisis and hammers home its message in scene after scene howwe must stop looking for the impossibly perfect mate and begin accepting theflaws in others to be truly happy in love.

There are also occasionswhen inventive and funny scenes are then followed by cliched moments, such asyet another moment in a film where we watch a character act pouty because hedoes not know if he should kiss the girl.

But what the film lacks inoriginality, though, it makes up for in its technical achievement andamiability. Using a variety of film speeds and clever cinematography andediting, it declares its hipness from the first note of the boisterous openingcredits, and throughout, makes great use of eclectic modern music by KrackedUnit that samples the flavour of all three (beautifully showcased) cities in thefilm: Paris, London and St Petersburg.

The most compellingcharacters are those played by Duris, Audrey Tautou as his ex-girlfriend andCecile de France as his forthright lesbian buddy. Duris carries the film withhis brand of awkward charm while the two ladies provide scenes with the biggestlaughs and deserve more screen time than they are given.

Unfortunately, the othersare less interesting to watch, but nonetheless, we appreciate them all enoughto look forward to checking in on them again in a few years.

Production companies
Ce Qui me Meut Productions
Lunar Films
France 2 Cinema

International sales

French distribution
Mars Distribution

Bruno Levy

Dominique Colin

Francine Sandberg

Production design
Marie Cheminal

Loic Dury
Laurent Levesque

Main cast
Romain Duris
Cecile de France
Audrey Tautou
Kelly Reilly
Kevin Bishop