La Femme et le TGV (the title is generally rendered as The Railroad Lady in English, though a more literal translation would be The Woman and the TGV) is a half hour short film from Switzerland, loosely based on (or “inspired by,” as they say) a true story. “TGV” is an acronym for an intercity French railway system that also has routes to Switzerland and other countries.
An old lady (Jane Birkin, who Google reveals was quite an impressive babe in her day, like back in the ’60s) living in the Swiss countryside, gets up each day (she sets multiple alarm clocks to make sure she doesn’t oversleep), and goes to her window when she knows the scheduled high speed passenger train will whiz by her house, so she can give it a friendly wave of her Swiss flag.
She lives alone now, but she has been doing this happy little gesture for decades, back to when she had a family. Her son used to join her in it when he was a small boy. Now he is a grown man, only has occasional contact with her, and of course has long since outgrown any such quaint practices. To her, though, it’s as important as ever.
I wouldn’t say she’s completely nuts or senile, but she’s at least mildly off. She’s flighty, lonely, kind of lives in her own head, and doesn’t interact smoothly with others. Her son thinks it’s long past time she should move into a retirement home.
She owns and operates a small bakery in the nearest little town, but maybe not for much longer, as chain stores are killing her business, and frankly she doesn’t seem that much into it anymore anyway, at least compared to waving her flag at the train every morning.
Then things take an intriguing turn when she finds a letter in her yard, and discovers it was tossed from the train by a train driver. He writes that seeing her waving her flag every morning has become something he looks forward to, something that invariably cheers him up.
She tries to call him, but the railway company won’t give out the contact information of employees to strangers, so she writes to him. Thus begins a sustained period of correspondence where they get to know each other in writing, with his letters always being thrown from the moving train into her yard.
Will they ever meet in person? Will their connection take a romantic turn? How will this unexpected relationship affect other aspects of her life?
La Femme et le TGV is a sweet little film, and it’s cool at the end that they show the real life woman and train driver that the story is based on. I wouldn’t say it reached me on any kind of a deep level, or that I’d rank it amongst my favorite short films I’ve seen, but I’m glad I saw it.