Situated in Montreal’s “Little Jerusalem” (home to one of the largest Ultra-Orthodox communities in the world), Félix and Meira, opening this Friday at the Landmark Chez Artiste, follows the lives of two lonely individuals living on the margins of their communities. Setting the events in motion is Félix (Martin Dubreuil), who has returned home to say goodbye to his dying father. Félix has not set foot in Montreal, or seen his father, in over ten years and the return drudges up nothing but bad memories. Memories that Félix refuses to vocalize, letting his facial expression do the talking instead.
Meira (Hadas Yaron) is a Hasidic housewife and mother, and though she is devoted to her husband and position, she rebels in small ways: taking birth control, doodling in her daughter’s notebook, even listening to pop records. Meira teases her husband, Shulem (Luzer Twersky) by playing dead when he catches her doing something she shouldn’t, but the playfulness behind it left a long time ago.
Meira and Shulem have a rodent problem and while Meira sets up the traps, she repeatedly triggers one of the traps, listening the sharp, clean SNAP! sound over and over again. When Shulem tells her to quit it, Meira telling him that she likes the sound it makes, clearly identifying with it. A tad on the nose, but this is as loud as Félix and Meira is allowed to get.
As it was written in the screenwriter’s stars, Félix and Meira’s paths cross and there it is. Little is said, or shown, to express their attraction, just that they both found each other at the right time and the right place. Shulem suspects that something is up and quickly finds proof, presenting Meira with her fate: if she leaves him, she must leave the faith, thus barring her from the entire community. In a nice twist, Shulem is neither violent nor angry. Shulem loves Meira very much, and he wants her to be happy at any cost. It becomes obvious to him that he is not the answer, and he must let go.
Félix and Meira is a quite and silent sort of romance movie, one where looks convey emotions where words are not allowed. This is the 21st Century, and Canada to boot, but as Félix and Meira soon find out, they can run off at any time they want, but consequences are everywhere.
The weight of those consequences can be clearly seen on the faces of Félix and Meira (paying direct homage to The Graduate), vacillating between happiness and profound uncertainty. Only this time, there is a child involve. One who will grow up with no knowledge or interaction from her biological father. Meira knows this, and she apologizes to her baby. Will the kid grow up understanding the sacrifices that were made without her say? Or will she grow to understand the necessity of these actions? That’s hard to say. The adults might say they do, put on a brave face in public, and tell themselves it’s going to be all right and things happen the way they’re supposed to, but I willing to bet that they won’t. I’m willing to bet that this is beginning of a beautiful grudge. Life is cruel like that.