Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Film Review: Two for the Road, Starring Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney

Below is the first of three film reviews based on last week’s blog post asking for nominations of must-see films! I’ll be doing these for the next two Fridays, as well. Films are being reviewed in a very strategic method—in the order the films were stacked when I opened the box from Barnes & Noble.

Two for the Road (1966):
Albert Finney (Mark Wallace) and Audrey Hepburn (Joanna Wallace) provide inspired performances in a film that reveals the complicated core of a marriage underneath a façade of travel and chance. Mark and Joanna--united by a chance encounter--seemingly hitchhike through their married life, and the movie deftly travels between events in their relationship in a manner that mirrors comedy against drama, the bliss of a starting relationship with the tribulations of a marriage stalling and circling, a marriage held in a holding pattern.

Although the film starts with a 1960s title sequence with Technicolor road signs and that was apparently funded by the font Helvetica, the narrative moves beyond the mere directing of road signs and tours us deep into the psyches of the characters as Mark and Joanna meet, fall in love, travel through Europe with another couple, have a child, and spend time together until they learn what their marriage truly means to them, as a couple.

Their ventures through their relationship twine together as they visit--in later years--the locations and the random chances that brought them together; they cruise French country sides and remember their previous travels there in an MG automobile that caught fire, but they also test the foundation of their marriage against infidelity as Mark begins doing architectural design for a man named Maurice, events that return Mark’s and Joanna’s thoughts to an enchanted time they spent at the Mediterranean.

But the most touching moment in the film--the memory of which saves their marriage at a pivotal point in the film--occurs when Mark and Joanna, in the midst of one of their characteristic spats, dine together in utter silence; Joanna laments, “What kind of people sit together in a restaurant in complete silence?,” to which Mark replies, “Married people.” But this emphasizes the role of silence, of the unsaid things in this film. These staunch silences are like those moments when, guided by a GPS in an automobile, the driver is between exits and wondering what’s beyond the highway when the voice providing directions remains mute.

It’s that Mark and Joanna make this journey together, which reveals their attachment and dedication to each other. And the small ways in which they continue to know each other--such as Joanna’s exploitation of Mark’s continuing to forget the whereabouts of his passport--that demonstrate that tie. I would recommend anything starring the incomparable Audrey Hepburn, and this elegant film lets the viewer, as a hitchhiker in the marriage of Mark and Joanna Wallace, embark on an intimate adventure into the complicated travels of two lovers on the traffic circle-turnarounds of love.


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