Félix & Meira (2014)
In the French-Canadian district of Montreal, mother Meira (Hadas Yaron) lives a peaceful married life with her husband Shulem (Luzer Twersky) and baby. Despite the family being embedded within the strict, tight-knit Hasidic Jewish community, Meira is quietly subversive, listening to soul records and enjoying art, much to the disdain of Shulem.
In the same neighborhood lives Félix (Martin Dubreuil), a simple, but cultured man in mourning after his father’s death. Following a chance meeting that brings Félix and Meira together, the pair slowly and awkwardly grow closer with the fear of being caught by the Jewish commune, as they both look for a way to find comfort in one another.
Félix & Meira has been selected as the Canadian entry for next year’s Best Foreign Language Film at the 2016 Academy Awards and it’s easy to see why.
As with most narratives involving forbidden romance, there is a palpable yearning that builds up when the audience come to know that the characters have much to give each other, but to do so would mean a great sacrifice.
Director Maxime Giroux, Jo for Jonathan (2010), takes the theme of sacrifice very seriously here, questioning what it offers either within a religious or romantic context and whether it can ever be avoided. He does so in a manner that doesn’t feel forced and surprisingly, even finds lightness amongst the heavy subject matter.
The patient editing by Mathieu Bouchard-Malo, Wetlands (2011), paired with the subdued cinematography of Sara Mishara, Everything Is Fine (2008), allows the lead actors Hadas Yaron, Fill The Void (2012), and Martin Dubreuil, 7 Days (2010), much space and time to exhibit their awkwardness with many pauses and quick glances. It’s a kind of naturalism that’s usually dropped for pacing reasons, but used here, makes for a stronger identification with the characters, being all the more lifelike and introspective.
There are really only a couple of jarring moments in Félix & Meira — one involving a prolonged display of an old soul music performance that actually doesn’t affect the plot, and another after a dance at a bar, where two elderly men banter about ‘real dancing.’ While amusing, this scene felt as though it was plucked out of another picture altogether.
Félix & Meira also struggles to find its proper conclusion, choosing to indulge in several, with the first perhaps being closest to the central idea of sacrifice, while the second is uncertain, yet hopeful and the final suggesting a slightly ominous tone. The combined effect of all three endings just puts the narrative focus out a bit, rather than creating a final firm impression or statement.
Despite these moments, Félix & Meira is a very strong character study and a solid meditation on the shackles of expectation and letting go.
3.5 / 5 – Great
Reviewed by Steve Ramsie
Félix & Meira is released through FunFilm Distribution