Maxime Giroux's Felix and Meira, which opened today at the Opera Plaza, is a sweet, if intense, tale of forbidden love and a peek inside the mysterious world of Hasidic Judaism. It's the kind of slow moving, character driven, dialogue heavy film that might have been made in the 1970s. It's a shame that the Hollywood studios no longer have any interest in making films such as this.
From the moment they meet, Felix (Martin Dubreuil) and Meira (Hadas Yaron) are inexplicably drawn to each other. Neither of them can resist the other. It's a most unusual attraction. Meira is a Hasidic Jew, while Felix is an "outsider." At first, it might appear that they have nothing in common.
Meira is trapped in a loveless marriage to Shulem (Luzer Twersky, himself a former Hasid). He spends his life fulfilling his obligations to God and community. He expects the same of his wife, often ignoring her feelings. She likes to draw and listen to the blues when Shulem isn't home — when he catches her, he chastises her cruelly. He cannot see the extent to which she's suffocating.
With Felix, who lives nearby, Meira comes alive. They dance together. She wears jeans for the first time. She smiles and laughs. But most importantly, she spends time with a man who sees her for who she truly is.
One of the film's strongest aspects is its script. The characters are painted with broad shades of gray. There are no villains or heroes. For all his cruelty, we soon see that Shulem genuinely loves his wife and will be lost without her. Meira lives for her beloved daughter — she's a wonderful mother who comes to love Felix deeply. Her own treatment of Shulem is less than stellar.
And Felix, a lonely, deeply sensitive man who grew up in an abusive home, is sorely in need of a backbone.
No one in the film is all good, nor are they all bad. At different times, in different situations, they become one or the other. These are rich, fully realized characters, and the actors are more than up to the challenge of revealing their many nuances.
Felix and Meira
is a lovely film. Sweet, touching and thought provoking, it shows us how painful and beautiful love can be.