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Félix and Meira is a story of an unconventional romance between two people living vastly different realities mere blocks away from one another. Each lost in their everyday lives, Meira (Hadas Yaron), a Hasidic Jewish wife and mother and Félix (Martin Dubreuil), a Secular loner mourning the recent death of his estranged father, unexpectedly meet in a local bakery in Montreal's Mile End district. What starts as an innocent friendship becomes more serious as the two wayward strangers find comfort in one another. As Félix opens Meira's eyes to the world outside of her tight-knit Orthodox community, her desire for change becomes harder for her to ignore, ultimately forcing her to choose: remain in the life that she knows or give it all up to be with Félix. Giroux's film is a poignant and touching tale of self-discovery set against the backdrops of Montreal, Brooklyn, and Venice, Italy. Written by
Felix and Meria begins with a traditional Hasidic Jewish dinner: singing, celebration and religious clothing. Everyone seems comfortable except for Meria, our protagonist, and immediately through visuals we sense that something does not sit well with her. Thus begins the major conflict of the film as Meria debates internally her commitment to tradition.
Because of the timeless nature of this culture, at the beginning it is deliberately unclear what time period the film takes place in. Meria is scolded by her extremely traditional husband for playing LP records, indicating the film is a period piece. Yet as the film goes on and Meria slowly ventures outside of her Hasidic bubble, we realize that the film does in fact take place in present day, yet we discover it through her eyes and slowly it becomes more modern. The visual palette (like a love child of last year's Ida and A Most Violent Year) distinctly drives Meria's journey. This makes the modern world look in a distinct way unlike anything I have ever seen in a movie.
While focusing on Meria and her doubts in her beliefs, it quick develops into a love story. Despite being married and living among the traditional culture, Meria falls for Felix, a bachelor without the same family values. This isn't the adulterous kind of romance - everything is subdued, making even holding hands feel like a display of passion. The suspense remains because of how forbidden the relationship is in the first place, and thanks to top-tier performances and direction, the relationship between protagonists never feels inauthentic.
The dramatic sequences scattered throughout the film significantly outweigh the overall narrative. The symbols are rich without being overt. As said above, this is a movie full of subtlety that matches the emotional tone of the characters. The only not subtle moment happens right after Felix and Meria first spend time together, when the film transitions to an isolated clip seemingly unrelated yet emotionally moving. I would have been happy to see more of these, but alas because it only happened once it draws more power to itself.
As stated above the primary conflict of the film is tradition vs. love, which is incredibly powerful yet not as universal in today's world. Unfortunately, Meria's husband is reduced to being a caricature and not given enough complexity as a character. Had he been more layered, it would increase the stakes in how difficult it would be for Meria to decide to stray away from him. Regardless, this is the romantic drama that people should yearn for. Most romance audience prefer the more saccharine Nicholas Sparks adaptations, but could truly enjoy seeing something much more subtle and powerful as seen in Felix and Meria.
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