In Maxime Giroux’s latest feature, an unusual romance blossoms between two lost souls who inhabit the same neighbourhood but vastly different worlds. Meira (Hadas Yaron) is a young Hasidic Jewish mother in Montreal’s Mile End district who secretly rebels against her faith by listening to soul music and taking birth control pills; Félix (Martin Dubreuil) is a loner grieving the recent death of his estranged father. Intrigued by Meira, Félix hopes her religious devotion will provide insight into his loss, and though she rebuffs him at first a mutual affection soon arises between the two. As Meira’s desire for change becomes harder for her to hide, the young woman is faced with a stark choice: remain within the community she has always known, or pursue an uncertain future outside of it. (synopsis via TIFF)
It’s all too easy to stick with what you know.
After all, it’s well mapped out, there are no uncomfortable surprises lurking where they can’t be seen, and you can luxuriate in knowing what’s expected of you.
But what if you’re the kind of person who’s not satisfied with that kind of strictly-codified lifestyle? What if you need more?
What if you’re Meira, the Meira of Maxime Giroux’s Félix and Meira, a member of Montreal’s tightly-knit Hasidic Jewish community who wants more than the proscribed forms of behaviour and longs for something indefinably more?
Then you will likely fall for the flirtatious advances of an atheistic man by the name of Félix who is unsure of what he wants or where he fits anymore either but thinks Meira might be the one to help him find it.
And together you might go some way, in the chaste though intimate relationship that follows, to figuring out what it is you want from a life that sweeps far broader and takes more chances than the one you’re currently living.
But as Josh Cabrita of The Now observes, for all the life-changing possibilities the relationship between Félix and Meira offers, it won’t ever be the cure for all their existential ills:
“Becoming alive for Meira is not as simple as it may seem. Leaving her Hasidic community is not a black-and-white decision. Stay or go: either way Meira leaves something behind. No imperfect world perfectly satisfies. Life isn’t like most movies. Felix and Meira is at its best when it recognizes this.”
And while Peter Debruge of Variety also notes that the movie itself is far from a perfect creation, it does have a lot running in its favour:
“Though set in present-day Montreal, this tender romance unfolds like an episode from another century, paying the sort of careful attention to social boundaries you’d expect to find in a classic forbidden-love novel. While neither Meira’s arc nor her Orthodox Jewish environment constitutes especially new territory, this Oscilloscope acquisition distinguishes itself through its subtlety and sensitivity …”
It sounds like the sort of film that offers you the chance to think about your life, where it is and where it could be, and what you would change and wouldn’t, all wrapped up in a gentle, incisive and socially-aware slice of life drama.
That is what cinema should be about – telling you stories that start you off thinking about your own.
Félix and Meira, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2014, is currently awaiting a general international release dates after appearances at a suite of festivals worldwide.