Sometimes you get critics and audiences agreeing on a modest, yet award-winning film, about a provocative subject, and discover yet that they’re all wrong. Not a one has a lick of sense or the faintest idea of aesthetics in general much less moviemaking.
Felix and Meira isn’t really one of those films, but it was disappointing.
The premise is that Meira, a young mother and wife in an orthodox Jewish community, feels oppressed by the culture she’s in and attracted to Felix, a ne’er-do-well Quebecois with time and money, but no grounding whatsoever.
And that’s not a bad premise. The trailers tease all kinds of possibilities. Meira likes music, but the music she likes is forbidden, or maybe it’s all music except what the men sing. I don’t know, and the movie doesn’t illuminate.
Which is probably the main issue here. The movie doesn’t really illuminate much. Writer/director Maxime Giroux directs with modesty—which is good—but so much modesty that, at times, you don’t really know what’s going on.
For example, as much as I think movie sex is generally awkward and misplaced, the issue of sex between Felix and Meira is pretty damn important here. Meira crosses various boundaries at times, but they’re all pretty minor. The issue of sex would, I think, be pretty cataclysmic to a young woman who has (presumably) only ever known the touch of her husband. The movie punts on it. There’s a scene that might have ended in sex, but just as well might not have, given Felix’s general deference toward Meira. And Meira seems no different after than before.
We get why Felix is into Meira: He’s a middle-aged man and she’s young and beautiful and has an identity. (Ironically, his pursuit of her will necessarily destroy that identity, which idea isn’t really illuminated, either.)
We get why Meira is into Felix: He’s not orthodox. She can dance and listen to music and wear pants and take birth control and otherwise enjoy all the pleasures of life in Canada in…I’m guessing…the ‘60s. (Not that any of this actually relates specifically to Felix. He’s just the guy who’s willing to support her in her non-Jewishness.)
But ultimately, Meira will go whichever way the wind blows. She’ll never stand up for herself. If Felix gets her it’s because he pursued her. If her husband gets her back, it’s because he took her back from Felix.
And, one suspects, as unhappy as she is in her little Orthodox community, she isn’t really likely to find happiness outside of it either. The movie sort of suggests that as well. Though I’ve heard some say that the ending was supposed to be a romantic, happy ending, and I didn’t get that at all.
Some would say this is “subtle” but I don’t think that’s the right word. Some might say “murky” but murkiness can only be employed to hide something. The Boy and I felt more like stuff was just left out to avoid having to tell the story.
Fine acting by people you don’t know, except if you read this blog and recall 2012’s great overlooked film Fill The Void, which also stars Hadas Yaron (Meira) as a young Jewish woman in a marriage-conundrum. She’s a fine actress, and is able to bring sympathy to a role which doesn’t really lend itself to much.
I mean, really, she’s toying with destroying her family and ruining her husband, with the vaguest of apprehensions. She never expresses any feeling for him, which seems pretty cold. But it’s hard to say, because the movie, as I mentioned, illuminates little.
But, hey, no long, boring expository speeches either, so it’s got that going for it.
You probably don’t want to think about the fact that Meira is probably 19 or 20, either, while Felix is in his 40s. That might kill the romantic buzz and make it seem more exploitative.
Critics and audiences agree though, both giving it around 75% approval. So what do we know?