Sunday, February 7, 2021

Movie with Abe: Two of Us

Two of Us
Directed by Filippo Meneghetti
Released February 5, 2021 (Theaters and Virtual Cinemas)

During a long-term relationship, couples will likely discuss the fact that one of them is going to die first. It’s a jarring thought and a reason that some decide never to get close to someone for fear of losing them. One partner may hope that they’re the first to go since they couldn’t bear the idea of facing life without their loved one. Death is surely difficult, but there is an added dimension of pain and struggling when someone remains alive but in an incapacitated state where they can no longer communicate their wishes, forever transforming the relationship for the partner who remains entirely lucid and all too aware.

Madeleine (Martine Chevallier) and Nina (Barbara Sukowa) live across the hall from each other and have been in a secret relationship for years. Nina has been pushing for them to move to Italy and give up their apartments, but Madeleine still hasn’t told her adult children, who don’t know that she was unfaithful to their late father. When Madeleine suffers a stroke, Nina is devastated and panicked, and those feelings are multiplied exponentially when she finds herself unable to be by Madeleine’s side since, according to her children and the new caregiver, she is nothing more than her neighbor.

The structure of this film is interesting in that it launches into the story from a late point in Madeleine and Nina’s romance, where they are already extremely comfortable with each other and have gotten into a familiar pattern. Nina discusses making reservations for tickets and apartment rentals in Italy, but this is surely not the first time the idea has come up, nor the first time Madeleine has set out to tell her children before deciding that she still isn’t ready. As is typically the case with life-changing events, any resentment that builds up from that conflict fades away instantly, but Nina in particular has no way to even be there for Madeleine when she needs her most.

This is France’s official Oscar submission for Best International Feature, a love story featuring older actresses portraying a same-sex couple. It’s just as relatable for any generation or demogaphic, especially since Madeleine and Nina already feel written off to a degree by those who believe them merely to be retirees long past the best years of their lives, even though they know that not to be true. It’s an affecting portrait of the determination to care for someone in the face of tremendous grief, fueled by strong performances from both Chevallier and Sukowa.


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