Review: Two of Us
by Fabien Lemercier
- Filippo Meneghetti comes onto the scene with a very clever and finely tuned first feature film, excellently acted by Barbara Sukowa and Martine Chevallier
"I’ve been wanting to tell you something that’s important to me". Sometimes, there are confessions, revelations of intimate secrets, which suddenly become stuck in our throats, because they call into question the very fabric of our existence and the image that others have of us. But such a silence is not without its consequences … In Two of Us [+see also:
film profile], Filippo Meneghetti’s remarkable first full-length film, unveiled in a world premiere in the Discovery section of the 44th Toronto International Film Festival, the Italian filmmaker who has made his home in France masterfully dissects the secret, thwarted love of two retired women, interlacing the story with delicacy and suspense and providing Germany’s Barbara Sukowa and France’s Martine Chevallier (a pensionnaire of the Comédie Française stage theatre) with wonderful roles in the process.
"Have you got a problem with elderly dykes?" When Nina (Sukowa) discovers that her lover Madeleine (Chevallier) hasn’t yet dared to come out to her two (very grown up) children Anne and Frédéric (Léa Drucker and Jérôme Varanfrain) and that she’s holding back from their plan of selling her apartment (in a provincial French town) so that they can set off to live as a couple in Rome ("we’ll be able to be whoever we want to be"), she loses her temper in public and it’s the estate agent who gets it in the neck. It has to be said, the two women do live an ideal kind of love, living opposite one another, across the same hall, but ultimately always together at Madeleine’s place. This has been the case for a few years, since the death of the latter’s husband. We even go on to learn that their love-at-first-sight first began twenty years earlier. So when Madeleine suffers a heart attack, it’s a terrible tragedy and a bolt out of the blue. Devastated and forced to retreat back to her own four walls, Nina tries to involve herself, under the guise of neighbourly friendship, in the difficult process of Madeleine’s recovery, who soon returns to her home, supervised 24 hours a day by a carer (Muriel Benazeraf) and surrounded by her children. Nina’s feelings, and the certainty that she’s the one who’s best placed to help Madeleine get back to normal life, drive Nina to take ever greater risks and to arouse increasing levels of suspicion…
Meticulously orchestrating a subtle ballet of storyline fluctuations (the excellent script was written by the director himself, alongside Malysone Bovorasmy, in association with Florence Vignon and Marion Vernoux), based in and around the space and symbolism of two apartments which sit opposite one another, Filippo Meneghetti demonstrates undeniable prowess, in terms of both the film’s mise en scène and his own fine sense of judgement. He explores an engaging topic, the nuances of which are conveyed to perfection by his two lead actresses. With a hint of mystery, introduced both in the prologue and in another dream-like sequence, the filmmaker delivers a refined and emotional social melodrama (examining societal norms, old age), which is particularly well directed and empathic, marking, therefore, a more than promising debut.
(Translated from French)
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.