63) Two Lovers (2008) Dir: James Gray Date Released: February 2009 Date Seen: March 3rd, 2009 Rating: 4/5
-“You know what I realized?”
-“I never really saw you.”
-“I never saw you, either. I could feel you, you know. I could really feel you.”
What’s striking about the way director/co-writer James Gray films Leonard (Joaquin Phoenix), his titular two lovers (Gwyneth Paltrow and Vinessa Shaw) and his surrounding community (including Isabella Rossellini and Moni Moshonov) is the way the camera is both distantly voyeuristic and uncomfortably familiar. It is as if we are watching Leonard through the eyes of an invisible and hence powerless friend, one not satisfied with mere detached surveillance. We are allowed to get close enough to embrace him, but in a split-second, we are pushed back for the sake of simultaneously respecting and re-enforcing the distance between us and him. It’s almost as if we’re family.
That kind of intimacy is something Gray sought to envelop the feuding brothers in We Own the Night (2007), which featured equally laudatory performances from Phoenix and his co-stars. Here the empathic sense of frailty and tragic optimism that the film’s stellar cast radiates is fully embraced by Gray’s technique—and a better screenplay doesn’t hurt either. The film’s finale, especially Leonard’s farewell to his mother, is full of such prickly poignance that it oozes with a desperate kind of melancholy. It suffocates you with its warmth.