Montreal filmmaker Maxime Grioux’s 2014 film, called Félix et Meria, is a forbidden love story – and it has been earning wide acclaim. It has been nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Foreign Language Film category, and it has already won Best Canadian Feature Film at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.
It is fraught with tradition and cultural with its English, French and Yiddish languages. And set in Montreal’s Mile End neighbourhood, the windy streets and snowy sidewalks along with the earth-toned industrial buildings and townhomes give a dour and humble tone to the film.
Félix (Martin Dubreuil) is a middle-aged man whose father does not recognize him as his health is quickly fading. Félix lives alone.
Meria (Hadas Yaron, Fill the Void) is a young Jewish woman who is married to an Orthodox Jew and as such is constrained to a life of tradition and order. Her husband disapproves of her desires, music and playful antics; she is allowed little freedom.
Félix and Meria meet by happenstance and begin to secretly meet for little visits. Although low-key in tempo, Maxime Grioux paints an intense confrontation between cultural tradition and passionate desires.
Reminiscent of Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love (2000), Félix et Meria is a simple story with intense emotional angst: a man and a woman are compelled into intimate and tempestuous situations where their imagination and loyalty is left to wander.
Grioux draws attention to the subtlest of feelings the characters may hide from others who are unaware of their infidelities. Less fragmented by long takes and classical editing, spectators become much more vulnerable to the emotions and vulnerabilities of the characters.
Grioux’s camera shows steadfast restraint allowing audiences to linger within moments of yearning and longing.
The score reinforces the Yiddish folk traditions of the Orthodox Community while Leonard Cohen’s Famous Blue Raincoat highlights the sensualities of a young woman kept from her desires.
The music and minimal dialogue contribute to a feeling that Félix and Meria’s dissonance seems more believable than their emotional connection – until he receives some words from his father who is now passed on.
In all, Félix et Meria is a quiet masterpiece, its actions are subtle and emotions are bittersweet.
The Yukon Film Society and the Association franco-yukonnaise present Félix et Meria as part of the Available Light Cinema screening at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre on Nov. 25th beginning at 8 p.m. For the trailer and more information go to YukonFilmSociety.com.