Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | February 5th, 2021
Two of Us (“Deux”) (Filippo Meneghetti, 2020) 3½ out of 4 stars.
There must be something in the cinematic air right now, as the French film Two of Us is the second movie released in as many weeks about an aging same-sex couple struggling to hold on to the life they have built. Last Friday gave us Supernova, following two men on a final road trip before one of them loses himself to Alzheimer’s. Today we have Filippo Meneghetti’s tale of two women, both in their sixties (or so), who have long lived on the same landing in a Paris apartment building.
They are bosom companions who face an existential crisis after a stroke sends one to the hospital. Unfortunately, the woman so stricken has adult children very much unaware of her lover (they think she is just the neighbor). With the (mostly) best of intentions, they send her off to hospice care, threatening not only her recovery but the mental health of her bereft partner. Filled with heartbreaking moments and heartfelt performances, Two of Us proves that it is never too late to come out. Your life may depend on it.
The great German actress Barbara Sukowa (Hannah Arendt) plays Nina, the free spirit of the duo. Martine Chevallier, mostly known for her theater and TV work in France, plays Madeleine, the more reserved partner who fears what her children (and the rest of the world) will think if they find out she is a lesbian. Married for many years to an emotionally abusive man whom she did not love, Madeleine cannot quite bring herself to speak the words of her own liberation.
Still, she and Nina are in the midst of plans to sell their apartments and move to Rome (where they first met). And then, tragedy strikes, perhaps brought on by the stress of knowing she will finally have to tell her children the truth. Compounding the misfortune, she is cut off from the one person who could best aid in her recovery. Slowly stewing, Nina weighs direct action, knowing full well that, legally, she has no rights. It’s a fraught drama, wholly engaging and surprising up to its final moments.
Meneghetti, making his feature debut, expertly directs his actors, holding them in restraint much of the time, as befits the societal pressures that keep them in metaphorical chains, yet allows for some big emotional moments towards the end. He also uses a dream motif of young girls playing hide-and-seek to set up the challenge of self-actualization. There is no victory in this particular battle without some kind of loss.
Léa Drucker (Custody) is excellent as Anne, Madeleine’s daughter, who so cannot fathom that Nina is anything but an overly needy friend that she overlooks the obvious, and then once she understands, refuses to accept that reality. Matched by the subtlety of much of the dialogue, the performances of the three lead actresses bring out the humanity of all involved, even if some of the supporting characters are less well defined. A romantic drama as intense as it is profound, Two of Us is for all who have loved and hope to keep on loving.