Et voilà, c’est le weekend…le moment parfait pour être à Deux – which means it’s the weekend, and you have to seek out and On Demand Filippo Meneghetti’s Two of Us, the Italian filmmaker’s debut as feature-film director and France’s entry into the Best International Feature Film race at the upcoming and oh-so-pandemical 93rd Academy Awards.
German actress Barbara Sukowa and Martine Chevallier, a sociétaire de la Comédie-Française, star in Two of Us, as Nina Dorn and Madeleine “Mado” Girard, the titular duo, a longtime couple, who are still nothing more than just good friends to the world and to Mado’s grown children. Though each keeps a flat across the other, Nina and Mado practically live together, with the former having to shuttle back and forth, especially if Mado’s daughter, Anne (Léa Drucker, from EPIX’s War of the Worlds), or son, Fréd (Jérôme Varanfrain), is due to stop by for a visit. It’s all feeling a little too dans le placard for Nina, who is pushing for the couple to relocate to Rome, where they met so many years ago.
Ah, mais Mado still has to come out of that closet…which she plans to do. Soon. On her b-day. Of course, the day comes and Mado chickens out and instead, she tells Anne and Frédéric, who’s still angry at his mother for “not being there” for her dying husband, his father, that she loves them and is proud of them. And then she lies to Nina, this in spite of the fact that Mado has had a real estate agent stop by to appraise her apartment.
The whole thing becomes a mess after Mado gets caught, and hella more complicated after she has a stroke that leaves her aware and semi-mobile, yet unable to speak.
Nina, needless to say, finds herself up a creek without a paddle. Her love – probably the only reason she’s in Small Town, France – is in a state, and she cannot quite be there for her…because no one knows who she is.
Meneghetti based the story of Mado and Nina on a dear couple he witnessed during his formative years, and he takes great care of these characters, ensuring their lives feel and ring true. There are layers upon layers to ’em, knowwhatImean – these ladies are not your average quote-unquote hot lesbians, OK – they are complex, ambivalent, angry, in love, devoted. They are where they are, and together you shall hope they end up, too.
You know the Peggy March song, “I Will Follow Him”? Meneghetti savvily uses the Italian version as the couple’s main motif. It’s this kind of detail that helps Two of Us transcend as a deeply felt and understood kind of film. There is no male-gaze crap, no judgement, and ultimately there is no fear: Once Nina and Mado are free from the secret, they can be themselves and together, and it doesn’t feel like the story cheats them out of a happy ending at all.
Chevallier is revelatory as a human unleashing the spectrum of her power as a spiritual being to overcome the loss of some of her physical abilities and fully realize herself, while Sukowa navigates a veritable storm of emotion, ranging from unimaginable frustration to exuberant joy, ever the fish out of water as the immigrant half of a heart that beats as one.
That’s what happens, that is what is real, for love that doesn’t grow old exists.
Kudos to Meneghetti & Co. for recognizing and honoring love like this, et bravo pour la France, too.