I've had the opportunity recently to watch a number of films about closed communities, mainly religious, and observe the fascination they have on mainstream society. In Felix and Meira, we are treated to a romance between the likeliest of people who happen to be trapped in environments they are ill-suited for, and thus reach out for one another. But instead of being a story about "forbidden" love, the film takes a less salacious view on the relationship between Felix and Meira and how it affects other people in their lives. Meira is an Orthodox Jewish woman, married with one child in a community in Montreal. Despite her husband's warm feelings towards her and the support of friends in her community, Meira is compelled to turn on her record player each day when her husband leaves and listen to "her music." When she is caught one day, she suddenly falls dead in mock execution, as her husband chastises her childishness. Later, we see her huddled on the bathroom toilet, daughter in arms, as she rummages through a feminine products box that holds not only pads, but birth control pills as well. Throughout the film it will also hold other mementos of the secular life she would rather be living. Felix is a lonely man who has just lost his estranged father. He meets with his sister as they discuss inheritance and longterm plans, but like Meira, Felix too is living in a world that provides him with little comfort or respite on a daily basis. It's this need for the "other" that ignites a spark of interest between the two and they begin a rather chaste but still intimate love affair.
With most films that seek to explore affairs, there is usually a bad guy and a good guy. Surely Felix, corrupted by mainstream society, is just lusting after a woman he can't "have." And Meira must be driven to the arms of Felix because her oppressive husband is stifling her rights as a woman and a human being. But that's not the case. In fact, Meira's husband seems more bound by duty than any real impulse to subjugate his wife. Why belong to a community if you aren't going to follow the rules? His love for her is apparent, and the film does a good job balancing the anger and sadness he is entitled to feel when he learns of the affair, with his feelings of realism and wanting his wife to be happy. Everyone involved understands the stakes are tremendously high for Meira, as she will basically lose everyone in her life by leaving to be with Felix, and the conversations that follow are refreshingly matter-of-fact in their maturity and devoid of seedy drama.
Because this film is about two rather conventional people, attention tends to wane here and there, but actors Yaron and Dubreuil lend enough subtle flourishes to the characters of Meira and Felix that will keep you invested enough in where their relationship takes them.
I'm curious to see if others notice a Graduate-esqe ending to the film, which may or may not be the most thought-provoking scene you'll encounter.
Felix and Meira opens today at the Ritz Five.