The revelation here is Chevallier—or, to quote the end credits, “Martine Chevallier of the Comédie Française”—as Mado. Watch her watching the people around her, after the languid strength of her body has failed. Some of them discuss her as if she were absent, or dead, but her sharp blue eyes, following the action, and almost filling the movie screen, show that her wits are intact. So is her force of will. She’s all there.
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Through the use of symbolic peepholes, eavesdropping and dark rooms that provide cover for whispered assurances of devotion, Two of Us succeeds as a stealthy depiction of lesbian erotics, one that mirrors the inhibitions of a generation.
The burden of love is the fear of loss, and that unease is compounded when it’s tied to the inability to live as your authentic self. Meneghetti understands that loving someone isn’t just a joyous experience. It’s an anxiety-inducing one, too.
It transitions from tender romance into penetrating sorrow before taking on notes of mordant humor and unexpected quasi-thriller elements.
Meneghetti might be a first-time director, but in his assured pace, his determination not to provide easy answers, and his ability to suggest without manipulating, his career can’t help but look promising.
Sophisticated management of tone makes Two of Us rich and nuanced, complex and utterly heartbreaking. Within the folds of the film, simultaneously a love story, thriller and tragedy, nearly anyone can find an anchor, or a wound. It illustrates with devastating clarity what a mess secrets can make, and how one errant, unpredictable thread can unravel any carefully calibrated lie.
Beautifully crafted and perfectly cast, the film touches on everything from keeping up appearances and family dynamics between parents and adult children to a critique of retirement homes that over-medicate residents. Nina and Mado’s loving intimacy is exquisite as is the care with which the proceedings are lit. The answer to Nina’s question, who cares about two old dykes, is that we do.
The tale of two older women whose decades-long secret relationship is threatened after tragedy strikes covers emotional and thematic ground that transcends the sexual preferences of the two main characters.
Two of Us is one of those artfully crafted movies that never plays as such, because its proud, beating heart is so front and center, and its faith in the power of love and desire so energizing.
The film’s brevity means some ideas are under-developed. But what we’re left with is a sublime and sublimely simple portrait of a love that’s been lived in and the devotion it will take to ensure that endures.