Co-writer and director Maxime Giroux's "Felix and Meira" is an unusual love story that, though shrouded in chill and shadow, has moments of true loveliness.
Meira (Hadas Yaron) is a repressed Hasidic wife in Montreal who strains against the limitations of her traditional life: pressure to have more children, strict rules about dress, prohibitions against looking men in the eye. After a chance meeting with Felix (Martin Dubreuil), a non-religious man searching for meaning after his father's death, she is inspired to test the boundaries. The two begin a risky relationship, a relief from their respective lonely lives.
Giroux captures the oppressive winter in Montreal, the cultural specificities of the Hasidic community and the slow blossoming of an individual who begins to make personal choices. Yaron is captivating, expressing much of her character's struggle through her large, luminous and transfixing eyes. Her aching for escape and affection is palpable.
The director smartly avoids making any one character a real villain, choosing instead to focus on the ambiguity of choice and consequence. Luzer Twersky as Shulem, Meira's controlling husband, is a fine example of the film's willingness to extend empathy to all of its characters, and its refusal to pigeonhole them into a black and white moral landscape.
"Felix and Meira" leaves out the bigger plot developments, but in focusing its lens on the stolen intimate moments, it thaws the film's wintry atmosphere; a slow but steady spring blooms in Meira, even though all the questions are far from answered.
"Felix and Meira"
MPAA rating: R
Running time: 1 hour 46 minutes.
Playing: Laemmle's Royal, West L.A.; Laemmle's Town Center 5, Encino.