MFA blurb: First-time director Mergault adopts a light touch here, but the delicacy with which she charts the relationship between Aymé and Elena can’t cover up the larger, darker reality to which the film is referring: the continuing imbalance between the “two Europes,” and the social consequences of that imbalance. (Description adapted from the Film Society at Lincoln Center.)
From this, I was expecting a much darker film than the one I actually saw -- but I'm glad I got the light film I did.
Okay, I could do without the vegetarian joke at the beginning, but I'll live.
Aymé: "Women do things men can't -- housework, laundry..."
Aymé: "I know, I'm in shock, but for when I'm less shocked."
He could easily have come off as a v. unlikeable, but instead we go along with the idea that his marriage was not one of love, and he's a pragmatist and not a romantic, and he's v. much not connected to the mainstream culture, and he's not malicious so we just go along with it.
Aymé: "Fly there? I thought I'd take the train -- it's longer, but less high."
I like how Elena adjust her performance to fit what Aymé is looking for -- which, okay, sounds manipulative, but really it shows her as pragmatic and places her in contrast to the woman who is just aghast at who he is. (In retrospect, it's troubling how these desperate Romanian women are not just all v. attractive but also so v. shallow -- though this could also be taken as a critique on how effectively the West has exported its ideal and the tragedy of how that has been internalized by people for whom attainment is basically impossible.)
Elena: "You'll wake Gaby."
Her sister?: "So what? She'll know her mother's gone."
This is possibly the most hard-hitting moment of the entire film. (That she has a child is a complete surprise to the audience.)
Aymé: "Gardenia. Nia means nothing. But I'll guard it anyway."
V. moving scene. And I like that he reacts kindly.
Elena: "Silly? Why?"
Aymé: "If you did, you wouldn't be here."
Sidenote: Interesting all the lies (including lies of omission) in this film and how kindly most of them are played. Aymé doesn't find out that Elena has a daughter. Aymé and Elena are almost incapable of telling each other their mutual feelings. Aymé says he's going to Germany, and that Elena is an intern (sidenote: v. v. smart on his part, crafting that lie in advance and sending a letter, plus lying to the "Love for a Day, Love Forever" woman -- I'm unsure as to whether this is too clever and thus in need of handwaving), and his friend picks up the photos and finds out almost by accident that they are of Romania and lies to cover Aymé (and he gives Aymé a sly nod to the fact that he knows -- and the "we'll never go" re: the moon is rather poignant, actually) and so on.
Him falling in love with her reminded me of When I'm 64 [Which I still need to post about. I am obscenely behind, I know.]
Aymé: "If you belong to no one, you belong to everyone."
Aymé: "Waiting in my bed so perfect... like the foreigner was me... "
I really liked that. Felt v. accurate. "Like sunshine" felt excessive, but I did like "How could anyone pity you? You even light up the night." -- and the sunshine comparison does feel right, thinking about it now.
Also: Interesting how she keeps trying to entice him into bed (because without a marriage she isn't safe) but she doesn't want to be interpreted as a whore (one wonders where her daughter came from -- and it occurs to me that he may read her as a virgin... when he isn't reading her as a whore, of course, but I think really "tart" is what he's thinking and he's worried about her, worried that one of the guys will take advantage of her).
Elena: "I didn't mean to give slap."
Aymé: "This ring is just a simple ring. Only you can make it an engagement ring."
I love that. Though of course then he goes too far with "It's up to you to make this an engagement ring" and we're glad he never gets to say it.
He withdraws 15,650 euros. He was paying her 500/month, for comparison.
"12 - 3 - 5... day you bring me here."
I was assuming she was thanking him just because she was feeling so grateful and he was there, but awww.
Aymé: "dance school with little rats"
My brain totally went to a Disney Cinderella place, but when I realized how Elena would have interpreted it (coming from poverty).... ohhh.
Gaby: "What's 'winning the trifecta'?"
Elena: "Winning the trifecta... is when someone loves you very much"
Love that moment.
It's interesting, if he had tried to give her the engagement ring, I'm sure she would have taken it the wrong way and there would have been all sorts of angst and miscommunication about whether he was doing this out of noblesse oblige or whatever, but him giving her money and not taking any credit for it, and letting her use it to leave him (and you know when he yelled at her at the airport it's because he knew it would be best for her to go home -- that if she stayed she would soon be unhappy again) shows her he really loves her (la la la, "If you love someone, let them go....")
I love how he takes that in stride. And nice touch with Elena substituting Gaby in her usual place meeting Aymé in the field seamlessly reinserting herself as well as inserting Gaby.