It appears as though each country has its own cinematic staple. For the UK, it’s costume dramas, usually about a monarch. For Japan. it’s inhumanly scary movies about ghosts. For France, it appears to be classy dramas about lesbians. Two of Us or Deux (to give it the original French title) is a drama about just such a thing. It might be easy to laugh or sneer and say that French cinema is just sad people smoking in rooms and occasionally having sex; but few countries respect the art of the filmmaker as much as the French do.

The film follows two ageing women – Barbara Sukowa’s Nina, and Martine ‘Chevallier de la Comedy Fracaise’ Girard’s Madeleine – who have been friends and neighbours for some time. But more importantly, they have also been secret lovers. Madeleine and Nina intend to sell their flats and move to Italy together, but Madeleine has yet to come out to her two adult children. This becomes complicated when she suffers a debilitating stroke. Filippo Meneghetti’s film is a surprisingly mature look at ageing love, without ever falling into tepid cliché. The love between the two women is shown by their intimacy, but also their comfort together; showing their devotion even when Madeleine’s stroke threatens to put a barrier between them. There’s an interesting look at the stigmatism that older people have about being LGBTQ+, even when they themselves are of that demographic. The difference between Nina and Madeleine is Madeleine’s reticence to accept who she is, and to tell her children. Her son, Frederic, particularly appears to have animosity towards his mother considering her to have not been in love with their father. 

Still Courtesy – Peccadillo Pictures

The film is not embarrassed about two women of a certain age being in love, neither ashamed of their sexual needs nor their emotional ones; which works to the film’s strength. It’s helped by both Sukowa and Girard’s incredible performances that give you the feeling of long held emotion and the underlying issues that occur in any long lasting relationship. Two Of Us very deceptively morphs into a love triangle of sorts when a carer is introduced post-stroke and shows the frustration that Nina has that she cannot fulfil her duties as a partner. The film, unlike many characters within Two of Us, is neither shocked nor appalled by this long lasting love affair between two women; but is rather interested in exploring what love and rage can do to a person. 

One scene, in which Nina and Madeleine’s daughter Anne (Lea Drucker) talk about Madeleine’s life with her husband focusses on Madeleine listening, and how her eyes react. It’s a masterful performance of subtlety from Girard, while much of the film rests on the power of Sukowa’s ability to project a strong & independent homosexual woman. Far from the usual trope of older people finding love in comic situations, Two of Us instead paints a portrait of domesticity that many people of all genders and sexualities can understand; and offers two sterling central characters for older women to really sink their teeth into.

In other words… it’s a French film.

Two of Us is set to release on July 16th

By Paul Klein

Paul Klein is a film graduate. His favourite film is The Lion King, he still holds a candle for Sarah Michelle Gellar and does a fantastic impression of Sir Patrick Stewart. Letterboxd: paulkleinyo

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