The life of Janice Beard (Eileen Walsh) was marked from the start when her father died in childbirth and her mother fell into a "post partum/post mordum depression" from which she has yet to recover. To help her mum, Janice comes up with a rich fantasy life to try and lift her up from the pits of despair, but now Janice has graduated from school and the time has come for her to join the workforce so that she can earn enough money for her mother's treatment back home in Edinburgh. So our heroine goes off into the world as a temp, which has its own peculiar pitfalls. Real secretaries get to have lunch; Janice the temp gets to learn Spanish instead, which is not what she was (temporarily) hired to do.
Then Janice gets a temp job in the secretarial pool at a London automobile company that is gearing up for the big launch (pronouncing "lunch") of its new car. As a temp Janice is low girl on the totem pole, and given her tendency to say what she thinks when somebody actually bothers to ask her opinion, she is not fitting in well with the other girls and she is certainly rubbing Julia (Patsy Kensit), the head of the secretarial pool the wrong way. The only bright spot is Sean (Rhys Ifans), the office boy who is the low man on the male totem pole at the company, so he and Janice are an obvious match. The only problem is that Sean is really an industrial spy for a rival car manufacturer, who has been sent to sabotage the lunch (a.k.a. the "launch"). He needs a patsy, and that gets to be Janice so it is really too bad that he likes her. So just when Janice has been accepted by her peers and is seen as being a valuable member of the group, the rug gets pulled out from underneath here. Then the real fun begins because Janice has to save the day (nobody else is going to do it).
I did not think of "Janice Beard 45 W.P.M." as the British version of the "Amelie," because the French film was filmed with Gallic whimsy while this 2003 effort embraces English quirkiness. By the time we get to such comparisons we might as well acknowledge the entire genre of eccentric wallflowers finding love and/or happiness, such as "Muriel's Wedding" from Australia, "Very Annie Marie" from Wales, and others from around the world. Director Clare Kilner ("Daphne & Apollo"), who wrote the script with Ben Hopkins, deserves credit for turning in a comedy with romantic overtones (as opposed to a romantic comedy) that comes in at 81 minutes without even any deleted scenes on the DVD. I ended up rounding up on this one because it is a solid little film with a winsome performance by Walsh in the title role. Usually I am left ticking off things on my finger that could have made the movie better, but with this one I just got hooked and went along for the ride. That is a rare treat these days.