Two Of Us ****
Starring: Barbara Sukowa, Martine Chevallier, Léa Drucker, Muriel Bénazéraf
Director: Filippo Meneghetti
In recent years, more and more films have been made about senior romance. Amour was a landmark moment in filmmaking, depicting an authentic story of the trials faced by older people in later years. Most striking was its refusal to shy away from the pain caused by the loss of one’s partner in old age. Now, also hailing from France, comes its LGBT+ equivalent, Two Of Us – or Deux in French.
Madeleine (Chevallier) split from her husband many years ago and lives alone in an apartment, visited often by her daughter, Anne(Drucker). What the latter doesn’t know is that her mother actually isn’t alone, having been in a relationship with her next-door neighbour Nina (Sukowa) for decades. Nina wants Madeleine to tell her family the truth, but before she has the opportunity to, she suffers from a debilitating stroke that leaves her unable to speak or look after herself. Helplessly, Nina watches as Anne struggles caring for her mother. Moving in a cold and unkind nurse (Bénazéraf) to care for her, Anne begins to suspect that there’s something unusual about her mother’s friendship with her neighbour due to her constant presence and meddling in their affairs.
There is something truly painful about this tragic love story. The barriers are wholly internal, but in Madeleine’s insistence on staying in the closet, it is her partner who is left to deal with the consequences and not her. Both Chevallier and Sukowa are superb, but it is the latter that dominates this picture, breathlessly trying to respect Madeleine’s wishes but also look out for her best interests. This is not a film of “happily ever afters”; more “you made your bed, now lie in it” and though not entirely pessimistic, it is certainly a parable against not living one’s truth.
At times, this feels like a nuanced heist film as Nina tries to double-cross Anne and the dastardly nurse. It feels unfair that Anne is cast as a villain – though Drucker’s anger is clearly more grief than anything more targeted – because the real obstacle was Madeleine’s procrastination with the truth even before the film began. We’ve had many films about the struggles of previous generations to live openly, but this is the first I’ve seen about them refusing to in more open times. And the result is just as tragic.
Nina makes for a compelling heroine, fighting hard for the woman she loves. She’s bold and unafraid to go low in her dealings with the nurse and the film ups the stakes massively in its final act, having dispensed with its issues with pacing at the beginning. With a poignant ending and some beautifully romantic scenes, this is a film worthy to sit alongside Amour, even if you might feel like sitting Madeleine down and having a stern word with her about the mess she’s made for Nina to clear up. And expect tears when those credits roll, too.
UK RELEASE: 16th July 2021 in cinemas and on demand, released by Peccadillo Pictures
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