Netflix this: ‘Two for the Road’

Love, hate, commitment, betrayal (and France!) get plenty of exposure in Two for the Road, a comedy-drama from Stanley Donen (the director of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Charade). I debated for a while whether or not to give the film my ‘Netflix this’ stamp of approval; it’s not a feel-good film about the ups and downs of marriage. Rather, it’s a melancholy dissection of the relationship between two flawed people who love and hate with equal fervor. It’s a gorgeous film with beautiful people who aren’t as perfect as they appear.

two for the roadWhat’s it about? Joanna (Audrey Hepburn) and Mark (Albert Finney) have been married for about ten years. The film is told in a non-linear style, showing five different periods in Joanna and Mark’s relationship, all taking place on trips throughout France: hitchhiking together and falling in love; as young newlyweds roughing it on the one of those worst trips ever that turn into cherished memories; a road trip with Mark’s former flame and her husband and daughter; a rocky period when their marriage is threatened by infidelity by both parties; and on the way to another social event where they must keep up appearances even though divorce seems eminent.

The way the story is told is remarkably fresh for being a film that’s over 40 years old. While Two for the Road jumps back and forth between the time periods, the effect is seamless. I don’t believe what we see are flashbacks per se, but rather the deliberate revelation of Mark and Joanna’s marriage one memory at a time.

What’s good about it? Hepburn and Finney are really good–they don’t pull any punches with their characters. Sometimes you love them, sometimes you only want to love them, and sometimes you despise what they do. While we see the sometimes cruel things they do to each other, we also see why they fell in love in the first place. We see those memories that keep them together even though it would be easier for both of them to go their separate ways.

What’s bad about it? This ‘aint a movie about the sanctity of marriage. Both husband and wife stray from their commitments, and their reconciliations feels more forget than forgive.

Perfect for: fans of The Apartment, Audrey Heburn, 60’s movies.

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