Tag Archives: French movies

Test of Wills


by Hope Madden

As her camera races down the mountains of Val-d’Isère, writer/director Charlène Favier depicts both thrill and isolation in equal measure.

It’s a tone that fits more than just the competitive Alpine skiing that sits at the center of her latest film Slalom. The breathless and somewhat terrifying imagery is a perfect characterization of wunderkind skier Lyz Lopez’s (Noée Abita) particular coming of age.

At 15, Lyz is in training but on her own. Her mother has taken work quite a distance away, so Lyz will be looking after herself on weekends, training at a facility and studying schoolwork on weekdays.

She’s also quite heartbreakingly looking for somebody who won’t let her down.

Abita’s performance is equally aching and frustrating, which makes her a painfully realistic adolescent. Faviere wisely limits Lyz’s actual dialog, allowing the performance to become more observational. Lyz watches and processes, her awkwardness, stillness, and anger telling us more than words ever could.

There’s a lived-in feel to this film, likely born of the filmmaker’s experience growing up in Val-d’Isère. The training, the experiences of team and competition, the beautiful but frigid landscape create an organic backdrop to the larger drama, a complex and soberingly authentic exploration of abuse.

The sports movie genre is littered with tales of the could-have-been athlete who regains what legitimacy he can by shepherding the next phenom. Jérémie Renier offers nary a false note as charismatic, tough-as-nails trainer Fred, whose moral weaknesses far outweigh any coaching talent.

Faviere’s take on the situation is even-handed. She never stoops to melodrama, never paints Lyz as a faultless innocent. The character’s complexities, particularly given Abita’s assured performance, only ensure that the film leaves more of a mark.

Secret Love

Two of Us (Deux)

by George Wolf

The plan was to sell each of their neighboring French flats and move to Rome. After decades of living in secret, Nina and Madeleine (“Mado”) would enjoy their twilight years loving each other without hiding.

But after promising to finally come out to her grown son and daughter, Mado (Martine Chevallier) hesitates. Nina (Barbara Sukowa) is furious, and the entire plan is up in the air when fate intervenes.

A sudden stroke leaves Mado unable to speak, which makes Nina an outsider in the world of her longtime love.

The debut feature from director/co-writer Filippo Meneghetti, Two of Us cuts deep with its quiet, well-constructed observations. As Mado’s family and a hired caregiver populate Mado’s apartment, Meneghetti returns often to a tiny peephole in the door, silently amplifying the distance separating the lovers, along with Nina’s yearning to conquer it.

The two leads – no doubt relishing the chance to craft complex, aging females – are simply wonderful. When we meet them, Nina is the proud free spirit, and Mado the reserved, closeted mother and grandmother. The stroke reverses their roles, giving each actor room to redefine their characters, and deepen our connection to them.

Though restrained by silence, you can practically hear Mado screaming for Nina, and Meneghetti’s frequent tight shots give Chevallier to chance to break our hearts without saying a word.

Sukowa’s arc is even better, and she makes Nina’s desperation not only palpable, but the understandable product of a love that is simply part of her very being. It is Nina who now must learn to lie, as her only hope for getting close to Mado becomes making up stories that might placate Mado’s slightly suspicious daughter (Léa Drucker).

One of those schemes runs Nina afoul of the caregiver’s adult son, leading to a well-worn and utterly predictable plot device that brings a surprise dent to Meneghetti’s gentle tone.

But by the time Nina and Mado are framed in the sweetest of final shots, all is forgiven. More than a welcome reminder that love is love at any age, Two of Us is a touching testament to how much stronger togetherness can make us.