“Two of Us”, the debut feature film by screenwriter and director Filippo Meneghetti, comes from France, a country from which Hollywood has learned a lot about appreciating the character and beauty of older actresses. The film (which opens on Friday in virtual cinemas like Cinema SF and on demand) tells the story of a longstanding lesbian relationship that has been challenged by disease and power games. It’s an expertly done, emotionally resonant romantic drama that occasionally has social themes and is full of thrills.
The film, co-written by Malysone Bovorasmy, is set in an unknown French city and begins with a scene in which two girls play hide and seek. We then meet Madeleine (Martine Chevallier) and Nina (Barbara Sukowa), pensioners who have long been concerned with their own way of hiding.
The reserved 70-year-old Madeleine, a widow and grandmother, and the slightly younger Nina, who is more free-spirited and German, have been in love for decades. They regularly spend time together in each other’s apartments, conveniently located on opposite sides of a hallway, sometimes dancing barefoot to an Italian recording of a 1960s pop piece. But they simply present themselves to the world as neighbors and friends.
The couple are preparing to move to Rome to spend their final years there, but first Madeleine has to sell her apartment and tell her two grown children – the protective Anne (Lea Drucker) and the annoying Frederic (Jerome Francaise) that they know nothing about her mother’s relationship with Nina about her plans. When Madeleine can’t bring herself to do it, Nina explodes in anger. Madeleine then has a stroke that makes her unable to speak.
Madeleine’s condition leads to a power struggle in which Nina, Anne, and Madeleine’s supervisor Muriel (Muriel Benazeraf) argue over who should oversee Madeleine’s welfare. As the others are unaware of the true nature of Nina’s relationship with Madeleine, Nina is treated only as a neighbor and excluded from discussions about Madeleine’s care. Angry, Nina behaves desperately, commits acts of violence and makes a financial deal that gives her access to Madeleine.
Her possessive behavior, as well as the actions of the other characters – including Madeleine herself who may or may not understand the maneuvers around her – lead to tension and intrigue.
The film sometimes borders on over-the-top melodrama when the characters are machine-edited, but luckily Meneghetti doesn’t lose touch with what’s close to his heart: Madeleine and Nina’s bond. He has created a simple but tense, structured and romantic story of an enduring love that shows imperfect but well-intentioned characters instead of saints and villains.
The film is also remarkable for portraying older women as three-dimensional people and as sexual beings, and portraying older lesbians in that light.
Sukowa’s determined Nina is a force that acts out of love and devotion. Their actions may be appalling at times, but Sukowa and Meneghetti crucially keep them compassionate.
Chevallier, whose Madeleine is silent for much of the story, conveys some of Madeleine’s thoughts through her eyes, in the glowing close-ups that Meneghetti and cameraman Aurelien Marra give her.
The results are stirring.
Two of us
With: Barbara Sukowa, Martine Chevallier, Lea Drucker and Muriel Benazeraf
Directed by: Filippo Meneghetti
Written by: Filippo Meneghetti, Malysone Bovorasmy
running time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Natalie Walker and MacLeod Andrews appear in “A Ghost Waits”. (Courtesy Arrow)
The supernatural romance “A Ghost Waits” may be too bright and light to deliver its darker material with the desired effect, but it presents its story of love and loneliness with a refreshing heart and sweetness instead of the fear and blood expected.
Directed by Adam Stovall, who wrote the script together with lead actor MacLeod Andrews and presented it in low-contrast black and white to convey his protagonist’s discomfort, this indie contains elements from “Beetlejuice” and “A Ghost Story” also offers a fresh one Low-fi version of popular horror material.
Jack (played by MacLeod), a handyman so lonely that he talks to the toilet, which he doesn’t clog, gets more than expected when he arrives at a vacated house to fix and determine for future residents why previous tenants left it hastily.
The reason: it is haunted. The perpetrated “spectral agent” (the new name for ghost), the creepy-looking Muriel (Natalie Walker), has put people off of what they consider to be their home.
However, Jack isn’t afraid of Muriel’s usual haunted tricks like ringing doorbells or lights turning on themselves. He is drawn to Muriel, with whom he feels meaningfully connected. Muriel’s cold heart warms up in his presence.
The dark and disturbing climax is not compatible with the lighter material in front of it. Stovall doesn’t quite manage to combine fantasy entertainment and the sad reality of depression.
A subplot involving Muriel’s haunted agency employment is nowhere unique enough to warrant screen time taken from the deepening Jack and Muriel bond.
But that relationship, profitably led by MacLeod and Walker, still runs sweet and alluring, resulting in a movie that is overall bewitching.
“A Ghost Waits” can be viewed on the Arrow platform.
A ghost is waiting
With: MacLeod Andrews, Natalie Walker
Directed by: Adam Stovall
Written by: Adam Stovall, MacLeod Andrews
running time: 1 hour 19 minutes
Movies and television
If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Learn more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/