“Why wouldn’t I be happy? My girlfriend’s obsessed with a cat!”
Fanny & Romeo
By Yves Pelletier and Pascal Girard
(translation by KerryAnn Cochrane)
136 pages/full colour
review by BK Munn
This beautiful little book quietly slipped into bookstores at the end of 2012 like a stray cat sidling through a kitchen window in search of warmth and vittles. And while at first glance it appears a tad scrawny and undernourished, once given a chance it repays attention with some amusement and emotion.
The titular characters in this low-key romantic comedy are underachieving graphic designer Fanny and the stray cat Romeo she adopts when his previous owner (and Fanny’s best friend) moves to the Philippines to save a long-distance romance. Fanny’s own relationship to real-estate agent Fabien is on slippery ground. Fabien’s career is in the ascendant, but his passive-aggressive, emotionally-distant personality is at odds with Fanny’s desire for motherhood and domesticity, a situation she tries to rectify with her own passive-aggressive introduction of a feline child-surrogate into the mix.
Of course Romeo turns out to be a cupid in reverse, his presence shining a spotlight on the minor faultlines in Fanny and Fabien’s relationship and essentially driving a wedge between them; both sides using the cat as a club to belay the other. Fabien’s allergic reaction to Romeo transforms into a full-blown case of the breakup blues, with Fanny and the cat subsequently moving into her friend’s vacated apartment the first in a series of comic episodes, replete with relationship set-pieces and slapstick moments. True to formula, Fanny eventually gets her shit together and has a few relationship epiphanies, just in time for a holiday-themed resolution. The whole thing reads like a pitch for a made-for-cable rom-com or, if Romeo was a dog, a heartwarming Hollywood production starring Luke Wilson (writer Pelletier has credits as a director, sketch-comedy actor and television scripter).
The fizziness of the plot is more than made up for by the charm and grace of Girard’s cartooning, which transforms the cardboard characters into fleshy individuals, blushing, sweating, and mewling their way through the conventional plot. Under his wiggly pen-line and blobs of pastel watercolour, Fanny and Fabien’s tribulations are given a human, albeit super-cute, emotional dimension. Originally published as Valentin by Quebec’s La Pasteque, and ably translated, lush sound-effects and all, by KerryAnn Cochrane, Fanny and Romeo is a charming love letter from a great cartoonist and a pleasant holiday treat.