Two of Us Review – Strong Character Driven Performances Layer the Realities

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Two of Us, from Magnolia Pictures and Magnet Releasing, presents the story of two lesbians, one out and the other closeted, who have known each other since childhood and have had a love affair or obsession, since youth.

The film begins with two young girls playing hide and seek. One so good at hiding we never see her found. From this moment we fast forward to the home of Madeline, played by Martine Chevallier, an apartment she owns, rich with memories of her marriage, children, grandchildren.

Her neighbor Nina, played by Barbara Sukowa, her constant guest and lover, lives across the hall. The two have secretly been in love for decades. Everybody, including Madeline’s family, thinks they are simply neighbors, sharing the top floor of their building.

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They come and go between their apartments, enjoying the affection and pleasures of daily life together, until an unforeseen event turns their relationship upside down and leads Madeline’s daughter to gradually unravel the truth between them.

The two are planning to move to Rome, where they met as children. Madeline remains hesitant about telling her children, who have remained angry over what they perceive is her treatment over their deceased father, that she is in love with her neighbor and is selling the apartment and the two will move to Rome and live a quiet life.

Without the pressure of her family, Madeline continues to make all the right steps which present the appearance of a unified decision.

The real estate broker stops by and does not present her an estimate. Her antiques, which are family heirlooms, items of lineage given to her and which her children expect to inherit, are valuable and are scattered around.

After the visit from the realtor, Nina was so inquisitive in knowing a possible sale value that Madeline playfully scolds her for her intrusiveness.

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With the plan appearing to be solid, Nina takes another step in enforcing the dedication, devotion, and unity, and without asking sells an heirloom, which we see had sentimental value for her and her family.

It isn’t soon after that Madeline takes the apartment off the market, and for Nina the plan of running away with her and absconding with her finances falls flat. Nina who is always on the edge of desperation, blows up on the street, making a scene and pulls the shame and humiliation cards out of her bag of submission tricks forcing Madeline to give in to her demands.

The next scene we see the stove, a pan on high gas heat, the food charred and crisp. We know something is wrong. Madeline has had a stroke. Rushed to the hospital she is unable to speak.

Nina has had the carpet pulled out of her plan. Her dream of living off Madeline appeared to be over. Up until this point, the idea of a grifter working Madeline, like a gold digger or gigolo, wafts into the mind, shades of possibility without concrete evidence.

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It isn’t until we see Nina’s home that we know or at least are surer of the ruse. Without her neighbor she is forced to live in her barren apartment. We see she has few possessions, dilapidated furniture, no food in the refrigerator and in fact had never even turned the refrigerator on. She is essentially broke and lived off the good graces of her lover or target depending on the viewpoint.

What follows is a twisted, desperate attempt to regain the control over Madeline and her finances. And while there are moments of genuine care and concern, the actions are extreme.

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In the end, what is obvious and true, is that Madeline, in the now shattered recesses of her mind which has rendered her mute, believes that Nina is the only person who genuinely loved her. Convinced of this, even in the state of impaired faculties, she forces herself to return to those moments, to recapture the brightness.

Was it love or an expertly built con? Qui seit? Who knows?

Two of Us, France’s Official Academy Awards entry for Best International Feature, is available in virtual cinemas and VoD on February 5, 2021. See it.


Film: Two of Us

Running time: 100 min.

Country: France.

Language: French with English Subtitles.

Director: Filippo Meneghetti.

Producers: Elise André, Donato Rotunno, Patrick Quinet, Stéphane Quinet.

Screenplay: Filippo Meneghetti, Malysone Bovorasmy, Florence Vignon.

Cast: Barbara Sukowa, Martine Chevallier, Léa Drucker, Muriel Benazeraf, Jérôme Varanfrain.

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