Félix & Meira

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Laura Clifford 
Félix & Meira

Robin Clifford 

As they prepare for Shabbos, Shulem (Luzer Twersky, "Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish") notes his wife's discontent and gently tries to engage her.  As Meira (Hadas Yaron, "Fill the Void") makes the rounds of Montreal's Mile End district, she encounters rootless artist Félix (Martin Dubreuil, "7 Days"). Fascinated by this young mother from the Hasidic community, he too reaches out and soon the two are spending time together.  But when Shulem finds out just what will happen to the nascent romance of "Félix & Meira?"

Laura:
Cowriter (with Alexandre Laferrière)/director Maxime Giroux confounds expectations with her affair of hearts from two very different worlds.  While she skates to the edge of Indie quirk, Giroux also knows how to delight with unexpected observations, keeping things grounded with the three sensitive portrayals at the core of her film.

Cross cutting between her protagonists accentuates the different worlds they come from.  While Meira, called Malka, occasionally rebels against the strict rules of her Orthodox religion, Félix is wrestling with the death of his estranged father, Théodore (Benoît Girard).  Shulem is incensed to find Meira listening to soul music (After Laughter by Wendy Rene) in their modest home while Félix's sister questions his plans for his inheritance in their stately family manse.  Shulem is having to cover his wife's strange behavior while Caroline (Anne-Élisabeth Bossé, "Laurence Anyways") continues their dad's judgement of Félix's irresponsible lifestyle.

Once the two come together, Giroux links them via soul music and their aptitude for drawing, Félix's gift of a cat gondolier to Meira's baby daughter representing yet another world that might contain them both.  The film's most delightful moment also features the duo experiencing a new culture together, an impulsive duck into a Spanish club getting them dancing, then, unbeknownst to them, critiqued by two strangers.

Yaron balances defiance and skittishness, quietly responding to Félix's cautious, respectful advances.  Dubreuil convinces of his immediate attraction to Meira, a person who not only gives him something to hang onto at a life altering time but one who brings out a protectiveness his family never fostered.  Twersky has the most difficult role, yet is capable of layering his strictness with genuine, perplexed concern.  He has an extraordinary scene with Dubreuil, followed by a solo moment that captures our hearts.

The film is quiet and low lit, an environment ripe for tentative lovemaking and rebirth.  Meira's love of soul is echoed in Olivier Alary's score using elements of traditional Jewish music. Giroux's insertion of Sister Rosetta Tharpe rocking out on electric guitar on 'Didn't It Rain' is an odd transition with no graspable ties to the film, yet somehow seems to fit. "Félix & Meira" has parallels to John Turturro's "Fading Gigolo," but unlike that film, this one's unexpected and ambiguous conclusion leaves the audience rethinking their own assumptions.

Grade:  B

Robin:
Robin gives "Félix & Meira" a B-.
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