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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 01.08.15] Canada drama

A few years ago, French Canadian director Maxime Giroux appeared like a beacon of light on the radar of Canadian film. Jo for Jonathan (review), his second feature, a moody and sombre family drama about two brothers at odds with each other, was a standout of the year and ever since, the anticipation of the director's follow-up has been rising. Through this expectant fog emerges Felix and Meira and though it stumbles a little, it doesn't disappoint.

Another family drama, Felix and Meira centers on two disparate people each locked in their own familial struggles. Felix is the black sheep of the family, having run away and been disowned by his father. At the beginning of the film he is struggling with the recent passing of his estranged father – a passing that didn't allow for Felix to make amends with his dad. Meira is a somewhat dutiful Hasidic Jewish wife and mother. Somewhat because there's a rebellious streak to Meira: she draws, she listens to forbidden music and perhaps her most grievous offence is that she takes birth control pills. She's unhappy but faithful to her husband until an encounter with Felix pulls her out of her shell and her quiet life.

The relationship between the two lost souls begins innocently enough. Felix gives Meira pictures he's dawn, plays albums for her and takes her about the city. It's a friendship that feels heavy with unspoken romance. Eventually the relationship morphs into a more typical romance but Felix and Meira is at its best when the relationship between the titular characters is budding. Hadas Yaron as Meira and Martin Dubreuil as Felix have an easy connection and the pair are wonderful together, sharing stolen moments that feel at once insignificant and like their every bit of being depends on them. Giroux captures these moments beautifully.

One of the director's trademarks are quiet scenes that slowly unfold. There's a graciousness and languid beauty to these moments but they are memorable and resonate in the way the characters move through the scenes. It's almost unscripted, and there's a beautiful spontaneity and energy that resonates though a scene. It lends an authenticity to the scene but also a feeling that the smallest movement is important and the power of the scenes resonate throughout the movie. Jo for Jonathan had a number of these moments and Felix and Meira has a handful of them as well, each better than the last. There's the quiet wordless hand holding on a NY ferry, a beautiful scene in a hotel room lit completely by the light from the buildings outside and perhaps the most powerful is a tranquil but emotionally resonant moment shared by Dubreuil and Luzer Twersky who plays Meira's husband Shulem.

The final act of Felix and Meira feels crammed with more emotional baggage than it needs, almost like Giroux and frequent writing partner Alexandre Laferrière were trying to add drama to a relationship that really doesn't need any more of it but in the end they only succeeded in making the Venice scenes unnecessarily messy and emotionally confusing.

Overall, Felix and Meira is a wonderfully emotional, sometimes challenging, accomplished work from a filmmaker who is comfortable and assured in his abilities.

Felix and Meira is currently touring across Canada as part of Canada's Top 10. It will be distributed in the US Oscilloscope Pictures later this year.

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