Rated R | Time: 1:45
French with subtitles
“Who is this man?” demands the angry husband, an Orthodox Jew with the fur hat and the side curls and the unhappy wife. He is holding the sketchbook she had hidden away, open to a page where she drew a portrait.
It’s a good question, because in the moody and evocative “Felix and Meira,” a French-Canadian drama about the intense emotional affair between a Hasidic Jewish woman, Meira (Hadas Yaron), and a secular layabout, Felix (Martin Dubreuil), it’s hard to get a handle on the guy. Maybe that’s the point: Meira, trapped in a loveless marriage, bound by the strict tenets of Hasidic life, longs to break free. And when the sort-of-charming galoot in the deli starts talking to her and her baby girl, Meira — consciously or not — sees the possibility of escape.
Directed and co-written by Maxime Giroux, “Felix and Meira” is set in the snow-covered neighborhoods of Montreal, where the film’s namesakes live in close proximity — but in worlds apart. Shulem (Luzer Twersky), Meira’s spouse, reprimands her for playing records. Expected to produce a bevy of children, she is secretly taking birth control pills. She used to “play dead” for Shulem, falling to the floor and holding her breath. But the playfulness is gone: She feels dead. Why pretend?
Felix has his own issues. His father, from whom he has long been estranged, is dying. He puts on a brave face. But at night, lying in bed, he cries.
At first tentatively, like kids not sure what they’re doing, or how to do it, Felix and Meira start spending time together, walking, talking. When Shulem, distressed at the idea of losing his wife, his family, dispatches Meira to Brooklyn (without their infant girl), Felix shows up, checking into a high-rise hotel in Manhattan. He buys her blue jeans. He removes her sheitel. They go to a club and dance.
Is this going to work? Are Felix and Meira looking deep into each other eyes — or looking through them, to whatever fate awaits beyond?
(At the Glenwood Arts.)
| Stephen Rea