up for love
Laurent Tirard’s latest film, Up For Love, casts Jean Dujardin (The Artist, The Wolf of Wall Street) and rising star Virginie Efira as accidental lovers after a chance encounter. Having seen the film just before its UK launch, I found a lot of unexpected heart in the story; at four-foot-five, Alexandre (Dujardin) comes with shortcomings to rival divorcee Diane’s (Efira) own. And it is dealt with in a moving and honest – albeit sometimes ridiculous – way.

I took some time with the director, Laurent Tirard, to discuss his journey to the height of romance. Excuse the pun.

Lela: Bonjour, Laurent! How are you feeling with less than 24 hours to go until the release of Up For Love?

Laurent: I’m afraid the UK release of Up for Love has been totally eclipsed by another release: that of my third child – a girl – who was born last week and is taking up a lot of my time and attention. So to answer you question: how am I feeling? Very sleepy.

Lela: Oh, congratluations! You actually used to be a film journalist. How do you think this has helped – or hindered – your filmmaking?

Laurent: It has helped in many ways. Watching over a hundred films a year is always a good school, of course. But beyond that, it has allowed me to approach lots of film makers and benefit from their experience. It has also taught me discipline in writing…and to deliver a text on time!

Lela: At points, the film is very emotional and potentially uncomfortable for the viewer. At other times it feels slightly slapstick. How important is it for you to showcase each and at what percentage? Do you ever feel one risks negating the other?

Laurent: I always feel that the most dramatic – or even tragic – subject matters make the best comedies. Comedy works as a relief, it helps us take distance from painful situations and reminds us to enjoy life. But sometimes even that degree of complexity can be contained in the most basic slapstick gag. So, in terms of dosage, or percentage, I guess it’s really a matter of intuition. It’s not mathematical – you do what you feel – because a movie is really a transposition of how you see life. I like to mix dark and light. Do they negate each other sometimes? I know some people are disturbed by it. I know some people love it. All I can do is hope the second group is larger than the first.

Lela: As a remake of a relatively recent film, how did CorazΓ³n de LeΓ³n inspire or play a part in this film?

Laurent: We stayed very, very close. Because we loved the concept and the story. We cut a few scenes, added a few ones, but that was it. What we did change a lot, however, was the inside of the scenes. Our version is in a very different tone. A little darker, maybe, a little less extravagant, too. A little closer to the vest. A little more European, I guess.

Lela: What were the major technical challenges of making Jean Dujardin a more diminutive man? Was there an option to work with an actor that wouldn’t require special effects to play the role ?

Laurent: Working with an actual “little” man was never an option for me. A huge part of the fun of the movie’s concept, I felt, was to see a movie star reduced on screen. Also, it immediately implied that this wasn’t trying to be “real”. On the opposite, it was to be taken like a fairytale, one in which prince Charming was a few inches too short. The challenge wasn’t really technical because, these days, you can do pretty much everything with digital special effects.

The challenge is making sure the technique doesn’t take all the room, and that your actors remain at the center of the stage because they are, in the end, the ones that convey the comedy and the emotion.

Lela: Up For Love strikes a nice balance between formulaic “rom-com” and heartfelt storytelling; did one feel more important than the other to you?

Laurent: To me, the “rom-com” aspect of the movie was always a pretense to address deeper, more heartfelt things. People kept saying “this is going to be very funny”, and I replied “Maybe…but I think it might be more moving than funny”.

Lela: If you could get one person to watch the film, who would it be and why ?

Laurent: My grandfather, who has taught me the art of storytelling.

Lela: What is next for Laurent Tirard?

Laurent: So many things! I am shooting another film with Jean Dujardin next year (a period comedy), and I have three more projects at different stages of completion. And I think I’d like to take a vacation, too, at some point…

Up For Love is in cinemas now.

gin afternoon tea
I have been fortunate enough to (over)indulge in a number of afternoon teas over the last few years, but nothing has been as experiential as the G & Tea at Mr Fogg’s Gin Parlour.

Launched just in time for National Afternoon Tea Week (my Christmas), the Mr Fogg’s team have set up a real afternoon delight; your traditional tiered treats alongside a gin & tonic, gin cocktail teapot, and taster session of two wildly different botanical mixes.

The Parlour itself has a selection of over 300 varieties of gin and leads into the ultimate Phineas-inspired lounging area; tophats, foliage, ‘bar wench’ and all. It is the perfect little hideaway to enjoy sandwiches, savoury treats, and a few updated Victorian sweets. Though a little off expectation, the lack of monster scones (my usual highlight) was made up for with a mini banoffee pie and a pot of Green With Env-tea (rose & cranberry green tea, Tanqueray London Dry gin, bergamot, honey, lemon & grapefruit).

The original will always be my go-to, but the Gin Parlour makes for an excellent escape from real-tea.

gin afternoon tea
gin afternoon tea
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london road trips
In collaboration with the wonderful crew at Carspring, I am sharing one of my proudest ever guides with you today: The Best Short Road Trips for Londoners – by area – meaning local road trips should take you no longer than one hour from door to door!

The thing I love about all of these trips is their individual versatility and the fact that – though TFL has amazing links across London – none of these destinations are an easy reach by public transport. They all provide a perfect excuse to grab some loved ones and hit the road!

North London Road Trip

Alexandra Palace to Lee Valley National Park and Paradise Wildlife Park (40 minutes)
This road trip begins at one of favourite viewpoints of The City of London – Ally Pally. Sunrise is especially beautiful (as it is on the highest point of a hill) and provides almost completely traffic-free access to Lee Valley National Park and Paradise Wildlife Park. You could do either – or both! – and get back to nature in less than forty minutes. The former is perfect for long walks but the latter is wonderful for families.

West London Road Trip

Pergola on The Roof to The Harry Potter Studio Tour (40 minutes)
This is probably the road trip best catered to my personal taste; that of food, views and Harry Potter. To begin, you can visit White City’s hipster-friendly pop-up parking lot ‘Pergola’ for lunch with some of London’s best street food vendors (expert tip: you can’t go wrong with Patty & Bun) and move on to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (also known as the WB Studio Tour) in less than one hour! Book in advance to make the most of broom rides, special events, Butterbeers, and more.

East London Road Trip

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to Hylands House (40 minutes)
This is a great option for those in East London who want to escape the associated “scene”. Beginning with a power walk/Instagram sesh around the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (the beloved host of the 2012 Olympic Games), you can then take off for the tubeless serenity of Hylands House; a gorgeous country estate that will make you feel like an extra in Downtown Abbey.

South London Road Trip

Richmond Park to Mayfield Lavender Fields (30 minutes)
Last but certainly not least, South London provides us with the shortest and most photo-friendly road trips around. In Richmond Park, you not only have a protected and completely undisturbed telescopic view of London but beautiful landscapes filled with baby deer! If that wasn’t enough, you have the Mayfield Lavender Fields just thirty minutes away – and they’re currently in full bloom! Don’t forget to charge your camera/cameraphone!

Enjoy your journeys, mi amor.

london map

pizza fold gif
Donna Margherita: when a restaurant is so good you’re scared to write the review for fear you’ll never get a table again.

Where do I even begin?

Donna Margherita doesn’t look like anything special from the street. Without an insider tip, I would have passed it without a second thought.

It would have been a real mistake.

Donna Margherita is personified in Gabriele Vitale – its owner, Head Chef, and authentic-as-they-come Italian. From the second my dinner date and I sat down, Gabriele flooded us with warmth, excitement, and a menu so genuinely Neopolitan we couldn’t help but order a little bit of everything.

Honestly, if the food wasn’t so incredible I’d probably go for the family feels alone.

Over the course of a few hours, we indulged in freshly-baked Focaccia (smothered in their house Sicilian olive oil & balsamic vinegar), Gaetan l’aulive, fried polenta, bruschetta, the world’s best aubergine parmigiana, an al dente pasta to rival the freshest of south Italy, and quite honestly the best margherita pizza I have ever had the pleasure of tasting…

Quality tomatoes, mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil, parmesan and fresh basil folded like it would be in Napoli. Simple. And fiercely delicious.

Intoxicated by the kitchen’s continually fresh aromas (ones you could likely smell from 100 feet away), it seemed sensible to honour the restaurant’s incredibly broad wine menu with savoured sips of Albente Feudi Di San Gregorio which – like Donna Margherita – is world-class yet modest to potential fault.

Take everyone you know. And tell Gabriele I sent you.

donna margherita london
donna margherita london
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