In Filippo Meneghetti’s Golden Globe nominated film Two of Us (Deux) the notion of unwavering commitment is given a unique twist. Playing like a psychological thriller, the sense of anxiety that comes with forced separation only intensifies the drama at the films core. Such intensity is the last thing one would expect in a film about two retirees in love.
Madeleine (Martine Chevallier) and Nina (Barbara Sukowa) have been in a closeted romance for decades. Living down the hall from each other in the same building complex, the two women have been hiding in plain sight for years. Growing up in a time when society looked down on lesbian relationships, they worked hard to maintain heteronormative appearances. To the outside world they are merely good friends. Even now Madeleine’s adult children, Anna (Léa Drucker) and Frédéric (Jérôme Varanfrain), believe that their father, who unbeknownst to them was abusive to her, was the love of their mother’s life.
After years of being forced to wear an ill-fitting mask, the women are finally ready to live on their own terms. Planning to move to Rome and find a place together, their new adventure is contingent on Madeleine being able to sell her place. Of course, to do that she will have to finally come out to her kids, a task easier said than done. Getting cold feet at the last minute, and harbouring devastating guilt from the past, Madeleine convinces herself that now is simply not the right time. Unfortunately, life rarely operates on our desired schedule.
When an unexpected event occurs, the couple find themselves separated in ways that they could have never imagined. In a blink of an eye, the charade they had intended to discard threatens to become a permanent prison.
What makes Two of Us so intriguing is the way Meneghetti use the environments the women inhabit to maximum effect. His camera patiently observes a frying pan on the stove before the presence of Nina in the background alerts the viewer to the tragic occurrences just out of sight. A hallway that once offered a short jaunt to romance turns into a metaphorical border wall. One where Nina can only navigate under the cloak of darkness like a thief in the night.
The film even manages to make an unassuming peephole feel both sinister and heartbreaking. It could be argued that the peephole serves as the perfect metaphor for their relationship. No matter how much they envision a happy future together there always seems to be a door dividing them.
Whether it is the ailment that befalls Madeleine, the caregiver whose mere presence makes her the enemy in Nina’s eyes, or the way Anna reacts to Nina in the latter section of the film, the obstacles in the couple’s path seem unending. Using these numerous hurdles to slowly build the tension, Two of Us could have easily rested on its psychological thriller elements. However, Meneghetti’s film is so much more than that.
Two of Us, at its core, is a deeply romantic film. One where women of a certain age are, refreshingly, allowed to be vibrant sexual beings. The romantic bond the couple display is so beautiful that one wants nothing more than to see Madeleline and Nina dancing in each other’s arms again. Part of the reason their relationship resonates so deeply is the performances by Chevallier and Sukowa. While Chevallier’s captures the physical embodiment of the repression the women endure, Sukowa masterfully conveys the fretfulness that loneliness and uncertainty can foster.
A stirring reminder of the unpredictable nature of life, Two of Us reinforces the importance of living and loving to the fullest.
Two of Us is available on to rent on the Apple TV app and VOD, virtual cinema – Inside Out
and digital TIFF Bell Lightbox