Posted by: fudgie99 | April 1, 2009

Between Two Women

between2womenMaybe it’s my inner puritan, but I really enjoyed this movie. I admit, it’s not action packed, there’s no hot and horny love scene (actually, no love scene at all), but I cared about these people. I was OK that they weren’t calling in the U-haul after talking for five minutes. Of course, it helps that it was small town England in 1957.

The movie starts with Jeff at his factory job- skully cap and cigarette hanging out the corner of his mouth, he’s just letting you know he’s working class. On the other side of town, his wife, Ellen, is chatting up their son Victor’s art teacher, Miss Thompson (aka Kathy).  Kathy is independent and educated, has taken an interest in Victor and his ability to draw, and a clear interest in his mother.

As the friendship/romance develops, I think it’s easy for Ellen to hide behind the fact that all the outings involve Victor. The problem is, everyone is noticing the connection between the two women. Victor sees Miss Thompson watching out the window for his mom, the husband is resentful that she stays talking to the teacher, making his tea late. Even Ellen’s sister has heard how well she’s “getting on” with the new teacher. When Jeff starts working evenings, they start spending every evening together.

The looks exchanged between the two women, the way they light up upon seeing each other, is marvelous. You see them saying good bye, with Victor in tow, with a look of wanting. The meaning of accepting a ride (stand in for date), going to Kathy’s house, then going upstairs in her house, all of this has deep meaning for both of them. Either you will find this a fascinating study in the development of love (“forbidden love”, as the trailer makes sure you know) or you’ll be bored to tears.

The movie is also a tug of war between classes and what it means to strive beyond the one you’re in.  At one point Jeff and Ellen argue and he says “Folk like us are meant to know are place.”, that being working class is an “attitude of mind”. Meaning, don’t give your son the idea he can escape a factory job, go to art school, become educated. Ellen sees things differently, longs to escape, but as Kathy points out, she marries Jeff because he doesn’t challenge her loyalty (and guilt) at being close and available to her family- oh yeah, and being pregnant probably cemented the deal.

There is a culminating scene between the two women, a challenge to move to the next level, but Ellen is too afraid to make a move (or accept a move made). As she says, “Perhaps I needed to conform for my sake” leading me to believe she knew full well who she was attracted to and just kept hiding from it in conventionality.

The women are separated, then reunited, ending on a positive (though openended)  note. There is a scene between Ellen and Jeff where I feel compassion for Jeff, with his obvious love for his wife and his struggle with their clear incompatability. He’s honest with her and respects her, which seems so unexpected compared to his harsh attitude the rest of the movie. It becomes clear, he just didn’t know how to express his feelings. Ellen is still upset by his leaving, even as we know her heart is clearly somewhere else. It just brings a complexity to the characters I appreciated

Ellen speaks of the realization of her feelings as a focus which has found itself. You will either enjoy watching her world come into focus or be bored to tears. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

4 stars- call in the U-haul, even though Ellen and Kathy won’t

Favorite lines

“From the drunkard’s lounge of the temperance hotel…”

“He’s jiggered the light.”

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