The Gwyneth Paltrow and Joaquin Phoenix-starrer Two Lovers competed in the 61st Cannes Film Festival held last year. This romantic drama from director James Gray (We Own the Night) will soon be shown exclusively at Ayala Malls Cinemas (Glorietta 4 & Greenbelt 3).
Set in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, Two Lovers tells the story of Leonard (Phoenix), an attractive but troubled young man who moves back into his childhood home following a suicide attempt. While recovering under the watchful eye of his worried but ultimately uncomprehending parents (Isabella Rossellini and Moni Monoshov), he encounters two women in quick succession: Michelle (Paltrow), a beautiful but volatile neighbor trapped in a toxic affair and Sandra (Vinessa Shaw), the lovely daughter of his father’s new business partner.
Leonard is forced to make an impossible decision—between the impetuousness of desire and the comfort of love—or risk falling back into the darkness that nearly killed him.
Two Lovers marks a shift in direction for writer-director James Gray, whose last three features were the critically acclaimed dramatic crime thrillers, Little Odessa, The Yards and We Own The Night. It also marks the Gray’s third collaboration with two-time Oscar nominee Joaquin Phoenix and his third consecutive film to be nominated for Cannes ’ prestigious Palme d’Or.
According to Gray, the inspiration for Two Lovers came from a number of sources including Dostoevsky’s novella, White Nights, about a man who enters into a platonic friendship with a woman he meets on the streets and develops an obsession with her. "I found the novella very moving," says Gray. "It’s the story of a person who is clearly suffering from a type of manic disorder. But what it’s really about is how he deals with love." Gray found intriguing the way the concept of love is handled from this perspective.
"It’s often very difficult to treat love with a kind of seriousness. It’s usually treated in a romantic comedy format because the state of being in love is, in itself, almost preposterous. Often we are really in love with a fantasy or an obsession." From there he began writing a script "about love, about something more personal to me."
Several months later Gray had the first draft of Two Lovers, but this intense love story marked a definite departure from the dark crime thrillers of the filmmaker’s past—though it also references Gray’s ongoing interest in the degree to which one’s social context and intrinsic nature determine one’s destiny.
Gray adds that Gwyneth Paltrow is responsible for inspiring the director to explore a different genre. "In a weird way she also inspired my decision to write something about love. She had told me ’we should do something together, but only if you make a movie without guns and a lot of guys yelling curse words,’" he laughs. "So in a way she really inspired the actual writing of the whole script and for me it was a way to get the other stuff, the ’crime element’ out of my system."