Boasting powerful performances by stars Barbara Sukowa and Martine Chevallier, Filippo Meneghetti’s Two of Us is a poignant, empathetic drama about two aging women who live in Paris whose love has lasted for decades but who’ve never felt free to live the life they dream of. Nina (Sukowa) and Madeline (Chevallier) don’t have especially ambitious goals for their retirement: All they want is to live together, openly, in Rome, as the couple they’ve been in secret for so long.
Madeline had a miserable marriage but isn’t able to tell her adult children that she’s been in love with her across-the-hall neighbor, Nina, for many years. Shortly after she and Nina argue over her inability to share her authentic self with her family, Madeline suffers a stroke. Nina is desperate to be with her, but no one knows that she’s anything other than a concerned neighbor, and she’s largely shut out of Madeline’s recovery and care. Nina, however, isn’t one to give up without a fight; she’ll do whatever it takes to be there for her Mado.
As the women’s story unspools, it illustrates how painful living a lie is for everyone involved: Madeline has hidden her true self from her children for so long that she’s afraid to be honest with them, even if it costs her a chance at real happiness. Nina wants the world to know how happy she is with her love but is left scrambling for any scrap of time with her — and viewed suspiciously by those in charge of Madeline’s care. And Madeline’s daughter, Anne (Lea Drucker), is ready to deny her mother comfort and solace because she can’t accept Madeline for who she is — and who she loves.
Both Sukowa and Chevallier are excellent in their roles. They bring heartbreaking authenticity to Nina and Madeline’s plight — one that’s sadly played out similarly for so many real-life gay couples who’ve kept their relationships secret in fear of biogtry, discrimination, and even violence. Two of Us reminds us that love is always something to celebrate, not to be disgusted by or scared of. — Betsy Bozdech
Team #MOTW’s comments:
Nikki Baughan: I was utterly floored by Two Of Us. A phenomenal, real, messy, deeply felt love story with two incredible performances from Barbara Sukowa and Martine Chevallier. It’s so rare to see an older lesbian relationship on screen, and particularly one portrayed with this level of authenticity and sensitivity. Bravo to all involved.
Pam Grady: Barbara Sukowa delivers a powerhouse performance as a woman determined to reunite with her partner in Filippo Menghetti’s moving drama. The film underlines the dangers of living a closeted life as longtime partners Nina (Sukowa) and Madeleine (Martine Chevallier) are suddenly separated by Madeleine’s illness. For years, they maintained the fiction of merely being friends and neighbors, but no longer can they move freely between their apartments – a situation Nina is determined to rectify. It is a simple situation that is fraught with tension, Nina’s moves are as apt to bring about heartbreak as happiness. There is poignancy in the women’s plight and in Nina’s passionate desire to be back where she belongs, in the arms of the woman she loves. Sukowa, in her younger days a star for Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Margarethe von Trotta, is stupendous as a woman willing to do whatever it takes to achieve her and Madeleine’s happy ending.
Susan Wloszczyna: We have seen more films over the years featuring older male lovers, including The Birdcage, Beginners, Love is Strange and the just-released Supernova. But Two of Us provides a strong counter-balance to those stories. If you aren’t moved by the final scene, you need to check your pulse. Read full review.
Leslie Combemale The film in French is called, simply, “Two”. These women are two, but one together, as all true partnerships are. The center of power for this film is the performances of the two actors, and their raw authenticity, both as a couple as individuals. That some in the LGBT community feel compelled to still stay closeted, and struggle to reveal their deepest loves, is heartbreaking. Stories about longterm love relationships like this one are important, especially now, with so many countries rolling back laws protecting LGBTQ citizens. Two of Us captures the dangers of a world where longtime companions, for whatever reason, don’t feel safe to reveal the loves of their lives to their families and friends, who may or may not prove themselves unworthy of their trust. The film reminds us that life is hard enough as we get older, without these excruciating complications.
MaryAnn Johanson Oh, beautiful film! I don’t know if I’ve ever been left after a movie with a stronger sense of “just let people be who they are!” than after this one. Just… let these two women be. Who are they hurting? I mean, especially Martine Chevallier’s Mado, who got married — to a man — even though it clearly wasn’t her thing, and had kids, and did what she was “supposed” to do… can she not finally have this last part of her life to herself? This gentle yet angry movie touched me deeply with its plea to simply let people ‘be.’
Jennifer Merin Two of Us stars Barbara Sukowa and Martine Chevallier as two aging women who’ve been neighbors and lovers for decades. When one of the lovers suffers a paralyzing stroke, the other steps in to care for her stricken mate, but she is denied access by family and the hospital who refuse to recognize the two women’s intimacy and their life-sustaining importance to each other. Director Filippo Meneghetti delivers a profoundly compassionate perspective on the story of the two women for whom recognition and acceptance of their love for each other is essential to life. Nuanced and poignant performances by Sukowa and Chevalier are simply stunning.
Loren King Without melodrama, the film shows the emotional cost of hiding a loving relationship. Two of Us delivers a rare and restrained portrait of enduring love, especially between women of a certain age, right up to its devastatingly, moving final frame. Read full review.
Sandie Angulo Chen: Two of Us is a quiet revelation. This isn’t a period piece of forbidden lesbian love in another century, like Ammonite or Portrait of a Lady on Fire. This is a contemporary love story, not so much forbidden, but secret all the same. In Italian director Filippo Meneghetti’s debut feature (set in France), two women in their 60s who look like neighbors of adjacent flats but are in fact secret lovers. Barbara Sukowa and Martine Chevalier are brilliant as single Nina and widowed Madeleine, who dream of selling “Mado’s” flat and moving to Rome. But first Mado must come out to her adult children — bickering 30-somethings Anna and Frederic. The plan goes terribly awry when Mado first gets cold feet about telling her kids and later has a stroke. The tragedy relegates Nina back to the role of old friend and doting neighbor, instead of partner and lover. Some of the elements of the film are more common in suspenseful thrillers than family dramas (caregivers with shady backgrounds, hiding behind shower curtains, and staring into peep holes), but overall this is a beautifully acted character study of two older women in love.
Liz Whittemore An extraordinarily intimate look at the lengths we’ll go for love, Two of Us is a love story for the ages. With some of the most stunning and meaningful close-up shots, the look of this film is beautiful. Leads Barbara Sukowa and Martine Chevalier both give nuanced, award-worthy performances. Your heart will ache to watch their journey as they navigate not just a fallout of a stroke but the bias of close family. It’s a timeless tale of acceptance and devotion. It is not to be missed.
Cate Marquis In earlier times, gay or lesbian couples sometimes escaped notice by posing as close friends, discreetly concealing their true relationship. Director Filippo Meneghetti’s French-language film Two of Us paints a warm portrait of one such older Lesbian couple posing as neighbors and best friends in Paris, who have carved out a quiet, happy life together and now dream of retiring to Rome. But Meneghetti reveals the flaw in such a hidden life when a medical emergency strikes and upends everything for the pair. Beautifully filmed with creative mis-en-scene and featuring a powerful performance by the great Barbara Sukowa and a sensitive, delicate one by Martine Chevallier from Comedie-Francaise, Two of Us starts out as a gentle love story but shifts into something more like a thriller as the lovers try to reunite in this gripping, insightful drama.
Title: Two of Us
Director: Filippo Meneghetti
Release Date: February 5, 2021
Running Time: 102 minutes
Language: French with English subtitles
Screenwriters: Malysone Bovorasmy, Filippo Meneghetti, /Florence Vignone
Stars: Barbara Sukowa, Martine Chevallier, Léa Drucker
Distribution Company: Magnolia Pictures
AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Sandie Angulo Chen, Marina Antunes, Nikki Baughan, Betsy Bozdech, Leslie Combemale, Pam Grady, MaryAnn Johanson, Loren King, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Liz Whittemore, Susan Wloszczyna, Kathia Woods
Edited by Jennifer Merin