Two of Us
Martine Chevallier, Barbara Sukowa, Lea Drucker
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…a tender and effective piece of cinema…
Love is love, as they say. However, it is still the case that disapproval of same sex relationships can blight many a union, especially for people of a certain generation. It can also be worse when one of the lovers has internalised a societal shame about their sexual preference. This delicate and haunting French film [released as Deux in France] deals with the themes of both lesbian love and ageism.
Nina (Barbara Sukowa) and Madeleine or Mado (Martine Chevallier) have been a couple for decades. After a period of travelling, they have come back to Paris in later life. They have adjacent apartments so that they can keep up the fiction that they are just neighbours. This suits Mado more than Nina as she is the one who cannot come out to her grown up family. Her son Frederick and his wife Anne (the ubiquitous Lea Drucker) visit regularly. They hardly know Nina and think nothing of what is happening in plain sight. When Mado suffers a misadventure, things have to change, and all the characters are set on a course that will redefine their lives and relationships.
Director Filippo Meneghetti keeps the focus very much on the lead couple’s bond, but he has solid support playing to advance the plot and brings various dilemmas to life. Several scenes in the film artfully contrive to explore the poignancy and tragic sense of waste in these lives that could have been so different. Much of this hinges on mis/communication. Meneghetti never judges his characters, and overall, he goes for the slow burn over the shock element. We also get the sense that Mado and Nina’s love is real and important to them.
Chevallier has perhaps the more difficult role, in that she has to do most of her acting with her eyes. It’s Sukowa’s film though, and she in once again both strong and watchable. The tri-lingual German actress (initially brought to fame by Fassbinder) clearly relishes carrying the movie. Recently she played the moral philosopher Hannah Arendt in the film of that name, but here, she is both more domestic and decisive. Nina has her convictions and she is willing to act on them come what may. The film has been compared to Michael Haneke’s Amour. It is not quite as subtle and profound as that, but it is a tender and effective piece of cinema all the same.