Two for the Road (1967)
Two for the Road (1967)

Genre: Romantic Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 51 min.

Release Date: April 27th, 1967 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Stanley Donen Actors: Audrey Hepburn, Albert Finney, Eleanor Bron, William Daniels, Gabrielle Middleton, Claude Dauphin, Nadia Gray, Georges Descrieres, Jacqueline Bisset, Judy Cornwell

 


 

“T

hey don’t look very happy,” suggests Joanna Wallace (Audrey Hepburn) as she watches newlyweds scurrying into their car. Her architect husband Mark (Albert Finney) concurs, stating that they shouldn’t be; after all, they just got married. Reflecting that viewpoint, the Wallaces arrive at the airport in England to depart for Santa Fe, but they’re distant, they sit apart, and they don’t exchange smiles or any such niceties. In fact, they seem quite bitter to be together.

“You haven’t been happy since the day we met.” The film flashes back to years prior, when Joanna and Mark first met on a boat, before moving along through their relationship as they marry, then take a carefree drive, conduct an impromptu repair, go on a vacation with insufferably stuffy acquaintances Cathy (Eleanor Bron) and Howard Manchester (William Daniels) and their obnoxious child, and hitchhike through the countryside. Much of the adventure of their lives involves traveling, generally in cars – hence the title.

All the while, Joanna remarks over the top of the sequences, as if narrating but ultimately only making commentary, reminiscing about their love story and analyzing when and where it fell apart. The scenes transition back and forth in a completely non-chronological manner, switching between the present, the past, and somewhere in the middle, musing over the various stages of their relationship. There are highs and lows, but with the end result already known, it’s a bittersweet, downward spiral toward the dissolution of a union.

Yet it’s also exceptionally romantic, dwelling at length on the tender moments, the playful flirting, and the professions of love. Henry Mancini’s sensational score (filled with xylophonic tones and gentle jazz) is of tremendous value here, making the comic relief a little more exaggerated and the sentimental components more affecting. As the picture progresses, their misadventures transform into disasters, steadily growing more vinegary, oftentimes cutting back and forth between initial visits and revisitations to various places to show the great contrast of young love and older disdain (or disregard). Further juxtaposition is used to highlight the hypocrisy of feigned adoration during unfaithful dalliances, loving embraces alternated with exhausting bickering, and the repetition of poignant lines of dialogue.

For much of the running time, the transitions are designed to show opposites – many with character behaviors and activities and little ironies concerning the maintenance of the pretense of a successful marriage. This design helps to aggravate the betrayals and increase the joyousness of romantic frolicking, while simultaneously moving through time and documenting the ways in which the lead couple come together or drift apart. Fortunately, despite the intermittent tragedies, the ending is powerfully heartfelt, smartly repeating an artistic motif that ties up the whole mixed-up storyline.

– Mike Massie

  • 9/10