Film Review: ‘Two Of Us’ Is A Love Story About Identity & Agency
Filippo Meneghetti’s gripping Two Of Us (US release date to be announced) is a romance filled with tension and all-too-real terror. Falling somewhere between Ira Sachs’ Love Is Strange and Marcelo Martinessi’s The Heiresses, the film is essentially about loss of agency. It examines the way age and infirmity can strip a person of their independence and identity — and that’s without the added layer of control and interference heaped upon same-sex couples of a certain age, who are often forced apart by circumstance, necessity or the simple fact that they haven’t actually come out.
That is the situation facing the protagonists of Two Of Us. To the outside world, Madeline (or Mado) and Nina are neighbors who share little more than a stairwell. However, they lead a completely different life behind closed doors. The elderly women have been lovers for decades and essentially live together as a married couple. Mado is finally on the brink of coming out to her children and moving to Rome with Nina when tragedy strikes. She suffers a debilitating stroke, which renders her speechless and finds Nina suddenly exiled from her own relationship.
One of the most satisfying aspects of Two Of Us is the authenticity of the leads. Mado (a haunting Martine Chevallier) is spineless, indulging her adult children to an unhealthy extent. Meanwhile, Nina (German veteran Barbara Sukowa) is nosy and domineering. They are also fiercely loyal to each other and unflinching in the face of adversity. This is particularly true of Nina. When Mado falls ill, the fiery senior struggles to access her life partner. She is reduced to peeking through keyholes, breaking into apartments and even petty vandalism. It’s humiliating and undignified, but capitulation never crosses her mind.
These scenes play out like a thriller with each, increasingly desperate measure amplifying the horror of their situation. The women seem destined for tragedy when Mado’s daughter (the impeccable Léa Drucker) puts two and two together. She immediately separates them without so much as a conversation, acting in a way that is as outrageous as it is predictable. Nina begs her to reconsider, while Mado slowly disappears within herself. Both actresses are tremendous, sketching out the inner-torment of their characters with every stolen glance and furrow.
Two Of Us wouldn’t be as effective without Meneghetti’s crisp direction and flair for suspense. There’s even a trace of Alfred Hitchcock in the stylish camera angles and audacious sound design, which evoked the naturalistic approach of Frenzy. Most importantly, Two Of Us is a reminder that visibility is a form of protection. Coming out can make you a target, but it’s a lot harder to dismantle a life lived out of the shadows.