Nina and Madeleine have been close friends for decades. Just how close, they haven’t let anyone, not even their closest relations, know. Living in two identical apartments opposite one another on the same floor Nina and Madeleine are inseparable lovers.
Two Of Us is not about two ageing dykes kissing and slobbering over one another. This is a relationship way past sex. In the winter of their lives, the two women are separated when one of them has a stroke. Much of the film is about Nina trying to circumvent the new regime that comes up around Madeline after her hospitalization. The way Nina gets the better of Madeleine’s caregiver could make a wonderful suspense thriller.
But then director Filippo Meneghetti, so wise for his first film, knows the real suspense in life is getting from one breath to the next without mishap. There is a tangible palpable feeling to Madeleine’s urgent desperation to somehow be, just BE, near Nina as she recovers from her stroke.
This wondrous heartwarming heart-stopping film sees God in the details. The film’s fleeting shots of Nina switching on the refrigerator of her own apartment after Madeleine goes into hospital or the ease with which Nina slips on Madeleine’s shoe after the caregiver (a quietly persuasive performance by Muriel Bénazéraf) struggles with the minor chore… these are dead giveaways for the longevity and strength of the two women’s relationship and for the director’s acute eye for detail.
Director Filippo Meneghetti and his fabulously vivid cinematographer (Aurélien Marra) waltz through Madeleine’s arresting apartment which becomes both the lovers’ secret Taj Mahal and now a dangerous place for forbidden love to survive, let alone exist. There are times, such as the sequence where Nina uses the key to Madeleine’s apartment to sneak into her lover’s room and bed while the caregiver sleeps in the next room, or that frantic moment towards the end when Madeleine makes good her escape from a hospice with Nina, that are virtually heart-in-the-mouth in their suspense.
Rest assured, Two Of Us (Deux is the French title) pulls no punches. The loving care that the director bestows in showing us the bond between the two women and the resentment of Madeleine’s daughter (neatly played by Léa Drucker) towards her mother’s lover, is ample evidence of a terrific craft being applied to a tender fragile relation that may break under pressure.
This is a film of multiple splendours. Above all, it’s a showcase for the two septuagenarian heroines. While Martine Chevallier makes her Madeleine memorable, it is Barbara Sukowa’s Nina who stays with us. She gives the film its extraordinary colour and emotions. Ms Sukowa has done many films in the past with the German master-director Rainer Werner Fassbinder. None so deeply affecting. Two Of Us will leave you bereft of tears. Its emotions are too deep for tears.
Directed by Filippo Meneghetti, Two Of Us gets 4 stars
Image source: IMDb