Deux / The Two of Us (2020) the movie ~ a review of a French lesbian love story

“The Two of Us / Deux” movie starts off as what would appear to be a lesbian love story between two tender senior women. Audiences enjoy unexpected twists in the plot that make this French language film a quasi gay thriller.

France has selected its choice of film for Oscars 2021 in the Best International Feature Film category and it is comedy/drama ‘Two of Us‘. 

The movie “Deux/The Two of Us” breaks many rules, especially it breaks from the tradition of romances that only celebrate young bodies, in order to tell the tender tale of two pensioners who have been in a secret relationship for decades.

Actress Barbara Sukowa plays Nina, a seventy something year old retiree living in Paris. Martine Chevallier plays Madeleine, her neighbour who lives across the hall. The two pensioners regularly leave their front doors unlocked and ajar, moving in and out of the space as if it were one oversized flat.

We first meet the duo as they discuss their plans to move from France to Rome, the city they first met and fell in love, many decades ago. Madeleine shows a real estate agent around her apartment and plans to put it on the market so she can move to the more affordable City of Love.

Madeleine invites her daughter and son over to celebrate her birthday with the intention of breaking the news of her impending move. But she gets cold feet, terrified to come out of the closet to her children after all these years. The next day she calls her real estate agent, informing him she no longer wants to sell her apartment, hiding the truth from her lover Nina.

Later while shopping, Madeleine spots Nina talking with her real estate agent, dread washing across her face. She rushes onto the street and is attacked by Nina who is heartbroken and upset that her girlfriend won’t commit to their future.

The plot pivots from what first appears to be a tender gay romance to an edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller. After calming down from their street-side outburst, Nina returns to Madeleine’s apartment to discover food burning on the stove. We learn Madeleine has had a stroke and may not be able to ever walk or talk ever again. Nina frantically tries to see her ailing girlfriend but Madeleine’s children and newly appointed live in nanny consider her no more than a neighbour, shut out from aiding in her recovery.

An unsuspecting turn happens after Nina discovers her lover Madeleine has suffered from a stroke.

Just days before, the two lesbian lovers were dancing hand in hand, excited to spend their sunset years together in Italy. Nina’s world is flipped upside down when she realizes she can no longer access her partner like she did before.

Nina’s relationship status quickly drops to “the nice neighbour”, as Madeleine never informed her children about their relationship. What’s worse? Madeleine returns home barely able to move and is now mute.

Nina is overwhelmed with guilt as she blames her emotional outburst for causing her girlfriends stroke. The Two of Us film’s plot takes a turn to edge-of-your-seat thriller as Nina desperately tries to find a way to spend time with Madeleine.

The day Madeleine returns home from the hospital, Nina discovers a nurse has been hired to take care of her at home. She goes to great lengths to remove the unsuspecting nurse from the picture. Damaging the family car with a hammer and eventually offering the nurse a deal to disappear. When the live in caregiver forgets to lock the front door, Madeleine silently shuffles out of the apartment. Panic ensues but when she’s found at the couples favourite park relaxing on a bench the nurse is fired and Nina thinks she’s finally got what she desires.

Nina so misses Madeleine that she makes a risky decision to creep into the apartment one night and cuddle her in bed. The following morning the daughter arrives, pulls back the curtains and screams in horror when she see’s Nina in bed with her ailing mother.

She’s immediately banished from the apartment, as the daughter thinks Nina’s disturbingly obsessed. Nina’s aching love for Madeleine suddenly makes her manic. She desperately calls the daughter asking to speak to her and explain things. When she gets no response, Nina visits her house one night to inform her they’ve both been in love for years. Madeleine’s daughter and son are horrified by her erratic and disturbing behaviour. They tell her to leave and never return. Nina is so enraged she throws a rock through their kitchen window, eyes filling with tears and tension as she storms away.

The following day Nina discovers Madeleine has been moved out of the apartment. Her daughter has decided its best she’s cared for at a nursing home. At this point the film’s attentive audience slips inside Nina’s mind, desperate for the two lovers to reconnect and run away together. Nina is now frantic, unaware of where her girlfriend has been moved. What lengths will Nina go to find and save Madeleine?

Co-writer and director Filippo Meneghetti explain the origin of his gay love story, “The inspiration for the complexity of my protagonists’ life choices and their inability to completely own them, with regard to their families, came from various people I have known, whose trajectories made a deep impression on me. For so long, I wanted to write a film about them, but I wasn’t sure of the best angle to approach it.”

Meneghetti explains, “One day, when I was about to ring a friend’s doorbell, I heard voices coming from the top floor. I went upstairs to take a look. The front doors of the two apartments up there were open, and the voices were those of two women talking to each other from their respective apartments. I lingered for a few minutes, unseen and in silence. Later, my friend told me that the two women were widows in their seventies, who warded off loneliness by constantly keeping their doors open and enlarged apartment that covered the whole top floor. That triggered something in my head, and I could picture my story. My protagonists would live together in that way, hiding their romantic involvement by appearing to the world to be mere neighbours.”

Meneghetti beautifully captures a unique gay love story in Two of Us (Deux). Aging female actors, seniors in their artistic prime, are regularly relegated to supporting roles or bits parts played by grandma. By crafting a story that zooms in on this often overlooked age bracket, he explores human emotions and haunting nightmares that are unthinkable in mainstream storytelling.

The movie had it’s world premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival.

The director of the movie is the Italian filmmaker Filippo Meneghetti, as well as the co-writer of the French language film Deux, which will be released as Two of Us for English audiences, also.

Watch the trailer :

Sources:

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