There are so many ways to begin to describe this lovely film and each would probably turn off half of our audience instantly. Which is a shame as they might miss one of the best LGBT+ films at the London Film Festival.
So, let us get it over with. It’s about old people. It’s about old lesbians. It’s about old lesbian love. It’s about old lesbian love in French.
Lost you yet? No? Wow. Good. You may be about to graduate from side eyeing bar hopping twink to a treasure hunter of beautifully well told love stories.
Nina (Barbara Sukowa) and Mado (Marine Chevallier) live opposite each other. They have been conducting a secret affair for decades. After the death of Mado’s husband they are on the verge of leaving behind their clandestine life in France and enjoying each other, and Rome, for what is left of their lives. Mado has promised Nina she will tell her grown up children she is leaving but, at the last moment, she fails to find the words. Tragically they would have been some of the last words she had ever spoken as shortly after a furious Nina finds out about her loss of courage Mado succumbs to a stroke.
As their love has been hidden Nina is left outside of the tight circle that gathers around Mado to take care of her as she regains a small amount of mobility. Nina is left pretending to be just another caring neighbour while desperately trying to carve out any time she can grasp with her lover.
The movie plays with wonderful different tones of storytelling. It starts with a magically portentous fable of two girls playing hide and seek and losing each other because one of their voices cannot be heard over the cacophonous cawing of birds. It slips into the romantic French elegance of the two grey haired women sharing their daily lives, dancing, shopping, selecting clothes for each other and excitedly planning a new life together. Surprising amounts of tension are wound up as Nina hides from Mado’s children while trying to find out what is going on with Mado’s treatment. Then comes the threat of blackmail from the caregiver and her thuggish son as Nina tries to arrange access to the only thing that now matters to her. Finally, there is the strength of Nina in the face of her adversity, eventually turning into car smashing, stone throwing rage and an attempt at rescue.
A touch of humour emphasizes the richness of this detailed emotional journey. Once, as Nina reads the newspaper to a comatose Mado, she comes across the story of a woman who could not stand to be separated from her dead husband and carries his intestines with her to the airport in her luggage. She remarks “I am a romantic but that is going too far”.
Two of Us, directed by Fillipo Meneghett, is a rich and moving tale that will appeal to people of all ages. Despite the frailty of the body, or maybe because of it, it is deeply optimistic about the enduring nature of love and its ability to overcome the most adverse circumstances.
Review by Andrew Hebden
Queerguru Correspondent Andrew Hebden is a MEDIA & CULTURAL STUDIES graduate spending his career between London, Beijing and NYC as an expert in media and social trends. As part of the expanding minimalist FIRE movement he recently returned to the UK and lives in Soho. He devotes as much time as possible to the movies, theatre and the gym. His favorite thing is to try something (anything) new every day.