Is it worth $10? Yes
What a heartbreaking, beautiful love story.
We’re all going to die, and some of us will be lucky enough to grow old gracefully. But what happens when the gracefulness wears off? That question is at the center of the deeply beating heart of “Amour,” a touching, wonderful film that depicts a genuine love rarely seen on the big screen.
In France, Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) are a married couple in their eighties who’re enjoying life together. They’re both retired music teachers, and Anne’s former pupil (Alexandre Tharaud) has gone on to great success. Then Anne has a stroke and everything changes. She’s paralyzed on her right side and needs a wheelchair. We don’t see the stroke or any of the traumatic events that make her progressively worse, an apt decision by writer/director Michael Haneke that allows us to stay away from histrionics and focus on the love and care Georges shows for Anne.
To that end, we also never see them in a hospital, with a doctor, or anywhere outside their apartment except for the film’s opening moments. Their pain is for them, not the world, to see. It’s as if Haneke wants the viewer to be a fly on the wall in the apartment, unobtrusive yet privy to the day-in, day-out difficulty that’s often overlooked for the more “dramatic” moments in movies. This is consistent with Haneke’s body of work: He is brutal and relentless in showing us things we don’t want to see (“Funny Games”), and fully capable of doing it in such a way that it resonates with profound emotion.
Watching Anne slowly, steadily decline is heartbreaking. There’s a moment when she gets out of bed to get a book from a nearby nightstand, but falls and can’t get back up. Another time Georges tries to give her water and she refuses to drink. Another, she wakes up wet and Georges, without hesitation or judgment but only utmost love, cleans up after her like it’s not a big deal.
And as bad as it is for her, think about how torturous it is for Georges to watch the strong woman he’s loved most of his life not want to live anymore and be completely dependent on others. Trintignant gives Georges a steely exterior – we never see him cry, for example – but we do occasionally glimpse the anguish on his face that’s being otherwise suppressed. Riva similarly shows emotions on her face, but for an altogether different reason: She’s often lying in bed under blankets. Her optimism that turns to contentment, then frustration and then giving up feels palpably real. Trintignant and Riva, both in their 80s, are splendid and deserve every accolade they receive.
Georges and Anne do get a few visitors. The important one is their daughter Eva, who means well but doesn’t understand the privacy her parents desire. How could she? To her Mom should be getting help, exercise, therapy, and there has to be a way to make Mom better. Only Georges knows – and at one point bluntly tells – Eva that Mom isn’t going to get better, she’s only going to get progressively worse until she slips away. How awful to hear, and how worse to have to say.
If “Amour” doesn’t inspire you to think of friends and loved ones who’ve gone through something similar, nothing will. Death is inevitable for us all, and one supposes there’s no ideal way to die. But you can’t help but fear that it’ll be this arduous and painful.
Did you know?
“Amour” is nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture; it’s the favorite to win Foreign Language Film.
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