Two of Us France (2019)

By Moira Sullivan

The French drama Deux or Two of Us in English features two exceptional and world class veteran actresses, Barbara Sukowa as Nina and Martine Chevallier as Madeleine in a story about a long term relationship that they keep hidden from friends and family. Directed and written by FILIPPO MENEGHETTI they are next door neighbors but they have been together for over 20 years. At Madeline’s birthday party, Nina is conspicuously absent but at that dinner Madeline is going to tell her daughter Anne LÉA DRUCKER , her son and grandson that she is going to sell her apartment and move to Italy with Nina. Madeline is a widower and her son is upset that she didn’t love him and moved on so quickly. But she was in love with another woman who was the love of her life. As she starts to speak at the birthday party she becomes inhibited for after two decades of silence it is hard to form words. She had promised Nina she would tell her family about their travel plans but when it turns out she hasn’t Nina is furious. Ironically Madeline suffers a stroke and loses the ability to speak. Her daughter hires a caregiver, Muriel , a mysterious secretive middle aged woman MURIEL BENAZERAF. Nina pays her to let her come and visit Madeline noting that she is extremely incompetent.

The film is loaded with homophobic reactions from family including internalized homophobia in the two woman but considering these are two 70 year+ old women who grew up in a different time in Germany and France, it is understandable. Anne has the most severe reaction to her mother’s lifestyle. While looking at photos Anne’s son recognizes Nina and Madeline in a photograph from Rome in the 70s. Anne is angry because she has been lied to for years.

Barbara Sukowa as usual is a brilliant powerful actress and seems ageless. Her earlier films are unforgettable such as MARIANNE AND JULIANE (Germany Die bleierne Zeit 1981)directed by Margarethe von Trotta where she won Best Actress with Jutta Lampe at the Venice Film Festival The film won the Golden Lion. Sukowa plays a young woman who becomes radicalized as a terrorist in post war Germany while her sister Julianne (Jutte Lampe) who grows up in the same family and country becomes a school teacher.

Martine Chevallier became a member of the famous theater troupe "Comédie-Française" in 1986 and has had a long and distinguished career on the stage and in film including James Ivory’s JEFFERSON IN PARIS in 1995. For twenty years she was married to Francis Ford Coppola's brother August until his death.

Cinematographer AURÉLIEN MARRA accentuates the clandestine nature of the women’s relationship in Two of Us where the adjoining apartments are often shot in near darkness. Filippo Meneghetti revealed that he got the idea for the film from neighbors in his building who left their doors open to maintain closeness. He envisioned that this was a likely reality for same sex relationships. Two of Us has been nominated for best foreign film at the upcoming Golden Globes by the Hollywood Foreign Press.

© 2021 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 02/03/21
Movie Magazine International

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