Sunday, September 13, 2020

The Two of Us (1967)

In Nazi-occupied Paris, a young Jewish boy (Alain Cohen) is sent to live in the countryside with the parents of a family friend, who are deeply anti-Semitic but unaware of the boy's identity. The old man, played by Michel Simon, takes the boy in, and forms a deep bond with him, never learning the truth about the boy's background. From this deep tension emerges a beautifully human story of different people finding solace in each other. The boy, aware of the old man's prejudices, finds ways of gently pushing back against them, having the effect of the man questioning some of his prejudices for the first time. But this is not a film that offers simple or trite solutions. The boy's Jewishness is never revealed to his new guardian, though the bond that they form is real and strong. 

There is an especially poignant scene that stands out: with the old man's urging, the boy has written a love letter to his sweetheart, which is intercepted by the girl's father and held up at school to punish the boy. The boy, humiliated and in tears, runs home to the old man, who comforts him like a father would. 

Director Claude Berri never hits a false note with the material, and the performances are equally pitch-perfect, which adds up to a powerful experience.

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