Well, I knew going into this film that it was going to be depressing, and it didn’t disappoint. I have a set of aging parents and I wanted to bring my mom to see this film, but alas, she was not feeling well, so I went with my honey instead. We both walked out feeling pretty glum. It’s probably for the best that Mom couldn’t make it.
Firstly, in case you are living under a rock, the movie is Austrian, in French with subtitles. I am not sure I have ever seen an Austrian film, but Amour is like many French films I’ve seen in that it follows the stereotype of being very slow and deliberate. There are scenes where you actually feel like you are watching paint dry. But that being said, if you know that is what you are up against, you can sit back and appreciate it for what it is, a serious dramatic and emotive film.
The main characters are George (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva). The film is amazingly well acted, both roles, but I have to say especially by Emmanuelle who plays a hemiplegic stroke victim.
Without plot spoiling too much, Georges and Anne are a distinguished married couple. They appear to be enjoying their retired lives together until an illness changes all that and Georges is left in the position of caring for a deteriorating Anne. The movie dissects all the intimate details of how a spouse/lover/life companion changes to the mundane role of caretaker and nurse, how painful that transition is and what a deep toll it takes on both parties. There is resignation, moments of happiness and laughter, sweetness and even cruelty. I found myself reaching for tissues several times throughout the film. Its worth watching, but be forewarned that it is a downer.
A couple of thoughts: I found myself having a bit of an A-ha moment with regards to my understanding the meaning of marriage. I think that the film is a wonderful demonstration of what marriage is really supposed to be about. Often movies seem to focus on the front end of marriage: the dating, build up, sex, passion. The back end is usually neglected. But here, we know the couple had a full life together – they raised a family, doubtlessly had many moments of sadness and joy together. But they made a vow to stand by each other to the death and that is exactly what they do. It is quite beautiful actually. Also, as the old saying goes, “love is a many splendored thing” – love evolves and has many faces.
The second thought is that I doubt if this film will win for Best Picture at an awards program like the Oscars that is geared toward American audiences. It is an artsy film of high quality for sure, but I don’t think it has the makings of a “Best Picture”. The film is also up for best director and best original screenplay (both for Michael Haneke), best actress (Emmanuelle Riva) and best foreign-language film. I do think that Riva would be deserved of a win for Best Actress, but it will be a tough sell to American audiences who are looking for a Jessica Chastain – Jennifer Lawrence duke out. As far as the other categories, I haven’t seen all the nominee films, so it would not be fair to make a prediction.
Overall, a good film, interesting and one that pulls at the heart strings. Good for a gloomy day like today….