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TWO OF US: A SENSATIONAL SLEEPER

There’s nothing more exciting to me than making a discovery. I wasn’t at the Toronto International Film Festival when Two of Us made its debut in the fall of 2019. It has played other prestigious festivals, including Los Angeles’ Outfest.…but I finally made it a priority when I read that it is France’s official entry for the Academy Awards this year. Now I’m telling everyone who will listen that it’s a must-see.

Two of Us opens with an intriguing prologue showing two girls playing hide and seek. It’s a visual metaphor that foreshadows a crimp in the longtime, loving relationship between two older women, played by the great German actress Barbara Sukowa and the Comédie Française veteran Martine Chevallier. They plan to run off to Rome to start a new life together, but that requires Chevallier to reveal what she has hidden from her family for twenty years: that she is gay and never loved her husband. She can’t bring herself to say this to her grown daughter and son. Then circumstances intrude and sets the two lovers on an unexpected path.

I can scarcely believe that this is the feature debut for Italian director Filippo Meneghetti, who also co-wrote the screenplay with these great actresses in mind. What’s more, as he has explained, “From the start, I wanted to shoot this love story as if it were a thriller: an eye looking through a peephole, an intruder in the night… The idea was to borrow from the codes of suspense, while reinterpreting them so they sit coherently with the universe of the film.”

It’s that heady mix that makes the film so compelling, the opposite of what one might expect from a story about two older women in love. There is an expository scene in which the camera takes our point of view, over a kitchen range where a steak is sizzling in a pan, and turns it into an almost unbearable Hitchcockian moment of suspense.

Yet much of the film is told in the simplest way possible: on the faces of its two expressive stars.

Two of Us (simply titled Deux in France) was co-written by Malysone Bovorasmy, with additional writing by Florence Vignonand, and photographed by Aurélien Marra. The staging and use of space in the apartment house where the two women share the top floor are ingenious, as is the use of sound. If this is a calling card for Meneghetti I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

Two of Us is now available on Video on Demand.

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