Last week, my NoF cohost Bryan and I went to see Amour. If you’re not already aware (for shame, reader), this is one of the big nominees for this year’s Academy Awards. It’s going up for Best Actress, Best Director, Best Foreign Language Film, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Picture. It already won Best Foreign Language Film for the Golden Globes this year. That in itself is reason to consider seeing this movie, even if you aren’t a fan of foreign film.
Before I continue, let me just say that this is NOT a review or a critiique of Amour. I will not be giving you a rating, or giving as impartial a perspective as possible diving into flaws and highlights, etc. This, my dear reader, is a story of what this movie did for me, and what I took from the story.
In fact, if you do not wish to have your expectations altered and you are intending on seeing the it soon, PLEASE stop reading now and go see the movie first. I truly don’t want my experience to ruin yours, but rest assured will not spoil the story.
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Have you returned, reader? Great! Have a seat. Would you like a drink? How did you like the film? Don’t answer that. Where was I…
Ah yes. Bryan hit me up after a long day of work to see the movie. I agreed, not knowing much about it except it’s huge critical reception.
The movies starts. Simple and silent credits. No score, just silence and white text on a black background: Amour (Love). In fact the whole movie is scoreless, and filled with many long-held still shots that border on uncomfortable. It sets it instantly apart from big blockbuster flicks and implied to me that this is something else. Does it reek of art house cinema style? Sure. But I’m really into that.
Several minutes into the film, we meet our characters, Anne and Georges, as they come home from an evening out. They are a slow moving, but independent couple in their eighties living in a Parisian flat. Instantly upon meeting them, I was reminded of my grandparents on my father’s side of the family. These characters are sweet, loving, and optimistic.
The next morning, Georges and Anne are at the breakfast table and Anne goes blank. She does not hear or respond to anything for several minutes, and is basically catatonic. Georges goes to fetch help, but Anne comes out of it, and has no recollection of the event that just occurred.
Here is where my heart sinks and I start to grow wary of this film. I know this story. Many people watching this movie right now know this story….
Anne’s state was caused by a blocked carotid artery, and she undergoes surgery, coming home paralyzed on the right side below the neck and wheelchair bound. She makes Georges promise her that he’ll never send her back to the hospital. The movie is then centered around Georges taking care of his wife as best as he can, based on her wishes.
I won’t go into the story too much more, for fear of the dreaded SPOILER, but I will get personal with you for a moment, reader. Remember when I mentioned my grandparents? My grandmother lived with Alzheimer’s disease for about a decade. My grandfather was by her side, taking care of her with no question or complaint, every day until he just couldn’t anymore. They spent the last year of their lives in an assisted living home, being cared for everyday by my father and the nursing staff. My grandpa passed away from cancer in November 2010, and my grandmother followed in February.
This is why the movie struck me so hard. I’ve seen two of the most beloved people in my life become physically incapable of caring for themselves. My grandfather was sharp until his last day, but had to receive help to move around and care for his basic needs. In my grandmother’s case, while she may have had more physical strength, she withered because of the nature of Alzheimer’s.
For those of us that watch our family age, it’s heartbreaking and it shatters our foundation. How can two of the most stable people in the whole world be put in this position? These are people who told me stories, gave me candy when my mom wasn’t looking, and were always waiting there for us at holidays. It’s like reverting to your childlike need for security from others, and having the harsh truth given to you instead of a home cooked meal.
But what is most important about Amour, is that it isn’t about us (grandkids, kids, friends, etc). It’s about him and her. It’s about loving and caring for the person he vowed to dedicated his being to, ‘til death do they part. It’s about holding her dignity and knowing how to care for herself and her livelihood without being able to physically do so. The movie revolves around the loss of fully functional adulthood and independence, yet not about a fear of the end.
From my very personal perspective, I hope that everyone sees this movie, but I know there will be very differing opinions out there. It’s a startling mirror to look into, but for me, it is the most important film I have seen in my adult life. In the stunning realism, I saw how my grandparent’s felt in their last years, how my parent’s will feel, and surely how I will feel, should I be lucky enough to see that age.