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Two for the Road
1967 - unrated - 111 Mins.
Director: Stanley Donen
Producer: Stanley Donen
Written By: Frederic Raphael
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Albert Finney, Eleanor Bron, William Daniels, Gabrielle Middleton
Review by: Bill King
   
"Two for the Road" tells the story of a married couple on its way to divorce. Something went wrong at some point, and thus begins Stanley Donen's affectionate story of a husband and wife who loved each other so much that any parting between the two would have been unimaginative. In this poignant tale of love and marriage, Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn come across as one of the most loving couples I've ever seen in a movie. Their story is touching and beautiful, but with that comes the sadness. All isn't well, and after seeing these two so happy for so long, it is with great regret to contemplate their seemingly-inevitable split.

The movie is told from several different timelines, many of which overlap but become easier to follow once we get used to the routine. Each timeline takes place at a specific point in the twelve-year period that they knew each other. Mark (Finney) is an architect who meets Joanna (Hepburn) in Europe. It is love at first sight, and much of the movie covers their trip through the countryside, and many of the humorous adventures they have along the way. This story thread is intercut with several others, including a separate trip with the Manchester family, and their unfortunate falling-out twelve years later.

We see how the young lovebirds enjoy each other. Car troubles, cash problems and rainy weather don't take away the simple pleasures of being in love. They laugh off their misfortunes, flirt constantly, kiss every chance they get and declare their affections. All of this would make for a happy movie, but it isn't always happy. Along with their younger days, we see where they end up. Driving to a client's home, Mark and Joanna look uncomfortable. They bicker and argue, completely clueless to the feelings they once shared.

Why, after twelve years of marriage, are they suddenly unhappy? The film tells that story too. The movie jumps between the various time periods, and in one such story arc, we witness the infidelities that they commit. Marriage becomes routine and monotonous. Now that they are married, the spark begins to fizzle. The need to impress is no longer there. Work and raising a child add challenges that previously didn't exist. Mark and Joanna mention at one point that sex is no longer fun, but a requirement. They have forgotten why they are in love. If they are to remain together, they must rekindle what they lost.

This is the third and last time Donen would direct Audrey Hepburn (after "Funny Face" and "Charade"). It is their finest collaboration. He understood her strengths, and what audiences liked best about her. He brings out all those qualities. It was about this time (1967) that Hepburn's career reached its pinnacle. With "My Fair Lady" still in the recent past and "Wait Until Dark" to be released later that year, the actress walked away from the spotlight, focusing instead on her family. She would return to the cameras occasionally, but not with the same frequency.

Much of the film is played to Henry Mancini's lovely score. It has a strong effect. Since we know early on that Mark and Joanna might split up, seeing their early scenes together is somewhat disheartening, because a couple this much in love couldn't possibly break up, could it? It is a possibility, and while they laugh, cuddle and speak their feelings, Mancini's somber score casts a shadow of doubt over everything. It's an effective contrast to what we see. Albert Finney, who has had a long career on stage and in film, displays all the giddy joy and brooding disappointment of a loving husband. As Mark, he still has feelings for Joanna, but the feeling may not be strong enough to keep them together.

"Two for the Road" is an adult drama about how, for some people, marriage can lose its power over years of routine behavior. It reminds us that love doesn't have to be confined to courting. It is a challenging feeling to maintain, and the film teaches us that getting married is easy. Staying married is the hard part.
 
Movie Guru Rating
An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater.
  4 out of 5 stars

 
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