A Little Romance is a 1979 American romantic-comedy film directed by George Roy Hill and written by Allan Burns & George Roy Hill. The film is based on Patrick Cauvin's novel "E=MC2 Mon Amour."

The film starred Laurence Olivier, Sally Kellerman, Thelonious Bernard (in his film debut) and Diane Lane (in her movie debut).

Plot[edit | edit source]

Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.

Lauren King (Diane Lane) is a book-smart 13-year-old American girl with an IQ of 167 living in Paris with her affluent family. She spends her free time reading Heidegger. Daniel Michon (Thelonious Bernard) is a street-wise 13-year-old French boy who lives in La Garenne with his father, a cabbie. He loves Hollywood films and amuses himself handicapping theoretical wagers on horse races.

The two meet in the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, where a movie is being filmed, and fall in love. Lauren's self-absorbed mother (Sally Kellerman), who consorts openly with her movie director boyfriend George in front of Lauren and her stepfather (Arthur Hill), fiercely objects to the romance, calling Daniel a "filthy French boy". When Daniel punches George at Lauren's birthday party for making a crude innuendo about Lauren, the two are forbidden to date.

Lauren and Daniel meet Julius Santorin (Laurence Olivier), a quirky but kindly gentleman, literally by accident. He bores Daniel but fascinates Lauren with stories of his life. Julius and Lauren share a mutual love of the poetry of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning and he claims to have lived at one time in the Brownings' villa in Venice. This leads Julius to tell of a tradition that if a couple kiss in a gondola beneath the Bridge of Sighs in Venice at sunset while the church bells toll, they will be in love forever.

Told that her family will be returning to America soon, Lauren hatches a plan to travel to Venice with Daniel. With the help of Julius (they cannot cross the border without an adult) and 18,000 francs won on a horse race, the three travel by train but miss their connection to Verona after Julius gets into a conversation during the stop at the Italian border. In the meantime Lauren's family discovers she is missing and spark an international investigation, believing Lauren has been abducted.

They hitch a ride with an American couple from Columbus, Ohio, the Duryeas (Andrew Duncan and Claudette Sutherland), who are touring Italy by car and also traveling to Venice. In Verona the travelers go out to dinner together, where Bob Duryea discovers that his wallet has been stolen.

Since their winnings from the horse race were left on the train in Julius's vest, presumably they have no money either, but Julius offers to pay the bill with cash, perplexing Lauren and irritating Daniel, who suspects he stole it. The following morning, Lauren and Daniel leave the hotel early to visit places associated with Romeo and Juliet.

At breakfast, the Ohio couple notices Lauren's picture in an Italian newspaper with the caption "Dov'e?". Janet thinks it means "bird...peace" but Bob deduces it's asking where she is. Julius has also seen the paper and intercepts Lauren and Daniel on their way back to the hotel, angry that Lauren lied to him about going to Venice to visit her sick mother. He angrily tells them that everyone now thinks that he is a kidnapper, for which "they will put me away" but can't bring himself to reveal that he has a criminal record as a pickpocket.

Because they can no longer go back to the hotel, they join a local bicycle race to escape Verona. Julius soon falls behind and Lauren persuades Daniel to go back for him. They find his bike abandoned and him collapsed from exhaustion. Daniel worms his background out of Julius, who also confesses that he both picked Bob's pocket and stole the money for their train tickets, disappointing Lauren.

Lauren then reveals that she will be moving back to the United States permanently in two weeks. She wanted to take a gondola to the Bridge of Sighs and kiss Daniel so as they could love each other forever. She berates Julius by dismissing all his stories as lies. Julius admits the truth of it but insists that the legend is not a lie. Daniel says that he is still going to Venice, and Lauren and Julius join him.

In Venice, they spend the night in St. Mark's Basilica, sleeping in the confessionals, until a chance meeting with the Duryeas sets them on the run again hours before sunset. Julius hides them in a movie theater and gives them his remaining cash, promising to return a half-hour before sunset.

As soon as they are inside, however, Julius turns himself in to police searching for them. They fall asleep during the film and awake with just a few minutes remaining. Julius is nowhere to be seen, taken to a police station, but despite being slapped around by an inspector, refuses to reveal their whereabouts until the bells of the Campanile have rung.

Not knowing where Julius is and with so little time, Lauren and Daniel run to find a gondola, most of which are booked by tourists eager to see the sunset from the canals. When an unoccupied gondola appears, its gondolier quotes a fare of 15,000 lire, 3,000 more than Julius gave them.

Because his father drives a cab, however, Daniel knows how to cajole the gondolier into accepting what they have. The gondolier takes them within sight of the bridge but refuses to go further just as sunset arrives. Daniel pushes him into the canal and as the Campanile begins chiming, pulls the gondola towards the bridge hand over hand using the pilings.

With Lauren's help, they set the gondola in motion and cuddle as the boat glides under the bridge. While the bells are still pealing, Lauren and Daniel kiss and embrace. In the police station, Julius finally reveals where Lauren is and what she is doing.

A few days later, Lauren is back with both her mother and stepfather, preparing to leave for home. As she starts to enter the car, Lauren notices Daniel across the street, waiting to say goodbye to her. Her mother starts to object, but her stepfather tells Lauren to go ahead. Lauren and Daniel share a final kiss, pledging not to become "like everybody else." Julius is sitting on a nearby bench and she bids him a tearful farewell. Overcome with emotion, she runs back to her car.

Daniel follows the retreating car down the street, watching Lauren wave through the rear window. A frustrated Parisian driver cuts in between them; Daniel jumps up so as he can see Lauren. The camera freezes on Daniel's face and zooms in, Lauren's last memory of Daniel until they can see each other again.

Cast[edit | edit source]

  • Laurence Olivier as Julius Edmund Santorin
  • Diane Lane as Lauren King
  • Thelonious Bernard as Daniel Michon
  • Arthur Hill as Richard King
  • Sally Kellerman as Kay King
  • Broderick Crawford as Himself
  • David Dukes as George de Marco
  • Andrew Duncan as Bob Duryea
  • Claudette Sutherland as Janet Duryea
  • Graham Fletcher-Cook as Londet
  • Ashby Semple as Natalie Woodstein
  • Claude Brosset as Michel Michon
  • Jacques Maury as Inspector Leclerc
  • Anna Massey as Ms Siegel
  • Peter Maloney as Martin
  • Dominique Lavanant as Mme. Cormier
  • Mike Marshall as 1st Assistant Director
  • Michel Bardinet as French Ambassador
  • David Gabison as French Representative
  • Isabel Duby as Monique
  • Geoffrey Carey as Make-up Man
  • John Pepper as 2nd Assistant Director
  • Denise Glaser as Woman Critic
  • Jeanne Herviale as Woman in Metro Station
  • Carlo Lastricati as Tour Guide
  • Judith Mullen as Richard's Secretary
  • Philippe Brigaud as Theater Manager
  • Lucienne Legrand as Theater Cashier

Production[edit | edit source]

The filming for "A Little Romance" took place in Paris, France as well as Verona, Venice and Veneto, Italy. Because the crew was unable to shoot scenes in the Louvre, a replica set was built for it.

Prior to the making of the movie, Thelonious Bernard was not fluent in acting and had no previous acting experience, so he stayed at director George Roy Hill's home for a month where he had a crash course in acting and how to speak English.

At the time, Laurence Olivier was 71 years old when he filmed "A Little Romance" and made the film while he was recovering from thrombosis and pneumonia. Despite his health & age, Olivier wanted to do his own stunts in the movie. George Roy Hill had a specifically designed bike made for him which had a motor that drove it to make it look like the cyclist was still pedaling it, but Olivier would not stand for it, so while Hill was away, he got on the real bike & rode down a hill on his own.

Reception[edit | edit source]

Following its initial release in 1979, "A Little Romance" received mixed reviews, with some of them being quite negative.

Rotten Tomatoes gave the movie a 72% rating based on 25 reviews and it received an 86% positive audience rating based on 5,156 reviews.

In his review in The New York Times, Vincent Canby described the film as "so ponderous it seems almost mean spirited. It's been a long time since I've seen a movie about boorish American tourists and felt sorry for the tourists—which is one of Mr. Hill's achievements here. I'm sure nothing mean-spirited was intended, but such is the film's effect. This may be the main hazard when one sets out to make a film so relentlessly sweet-tempered that it winds up—like Pollyana—alienating everyone not similarly affected."

In his review in the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert gave the film only two stars, writing that the film "gives us two movie kids in a story so unlikely I assume it was intended as a fantasy. And it gives us dialog and situations so relentlessly cute we want to squirm."

Following the release of "A Little Romance" on video and DVD, the movie gained stronger critical support.

In his review for DVD Movie Guide, David Williams called the film "one of those gems that doesn't seem too great on the surface, but manages to lift your spirits in such a way that when it's over, it makes you glad you ignored your initial feelings and checked it out anyway."

Williams applauded the performances as "engaging from top-to-bottom", singling out Laurence Olivier's portrayal of Julius, the mischievous escort and matchmaker.

In his review in DVD Movie Guide, John J. Puccio wrote, "It's a lovely tale of pure and innocent love and the lengths that people involved in such a love will go to in their desire to ensure it. The movie can hardly fail to please even the most jaded audiences."

In his review in DVD Talk, David Langdon concluded, "A Little Romance fits into that category we might call the children's film for adults. It's smart, well written, acted and directed. If anything it will be remembered as Diane Lane's first movie and one of Laurence Olivier's last. The DVD is above average in all categories except audio but it is worth a look."

Accolades[edit | edit source]

52nd Academy Awards

  • Best Adapted Screenplay: Allan Burns (nominated)
  • Best Original Song Score: Georges Delerue (won)
  • Best Supporting Actor- Motion Picture: Laurence Olivier (nominated)

32nd Writers Guild of America Awards

  • Best Comedy Adapted from Another Medium: Allan Burns (nominated)

Young Artists Awards

  • Diane Lane: Best Juvenile Actress in a Motion Picture (won)
  • Thelonious Bernard: Best Juvenile Actor in a Motion Picture (nominated)
  • Best Motion Picture Featuring Youth (won)

Theatrical Trailer[edit | edit source]


A Little Romance Trailer

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