‘Two for the Road’ – the Postmodern Prototype for Romantic Cinema
Two for the Road’s Lasting Influence
The opening credits allude to the various cars used in Two for the Road through slick animation, primarily highlighting the couple’s formative years in their Mercedes Speedster. The way the couple romanticizes their time in each car, describing its unique intricacies and flaws, this film could arguably be considered as much of a car movie as it is a romance or road trip one. In fact, the Mercedes Speedster belonged to Donen at the time of production. Masterfully, the penultimate sequence displays all the cars used throughout the film fluidly together. And although Two for the Road is deemed, in part, a road trip film, it’s actually several road films blended into 111 minutes, with each one telling a different story. Each one cuts back and forth to every moment of these places in time methodically in order to paint a detailed portrait of a rocky relationship. And in spending so much time analyzing the mechanics of a marriage on the edge from a calculated distance, Donen, Raphael, Gug, and Marden allow the viewer to feel the full range of emotion they want them to feel with ease. It is a marriage that is one-sided. Dominated by a bull-headed Mark who takes Joanna’s unconditional love and loyalty for granted. Like the seeming male protagonist in 500 Days of Summer, Mark is eventually revealed as the true cause of the couple’s internal issues.
This film could arguably be considered as much of a car movie as it is a romance or road trip one
If the viewer blinks, they may miss something vital in Two for the Road. The cuts get faster as the film progresses; if it had a third act, it would be consisted of a seemingly erratic series of unrelated scenes. It’s a film that requires multiple viewings. Even then, there’s always something to absorb upon yet another viewing. The fragmented scenes represent the shattered relationship at the center of the film. Slowly, by the end, Mark and Joanna attempt to pick up these scenes, these pieces, together, just as the audience must in order to understand their complex relationship. The film’s composer, Henry Mancini, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for his score, and who also composed “Moon River” for Hepburn in the iconic Breakfast at Tiffany’s, considers his “Two for the Road” theme the superior work of his career. As aforementioned, Hepburn was also nominated for a Golden Globe.
Walking and talking. Driving and talking. The former and latter and arguing. Philosophical musings. Narrative detours such as playfully guessing other couples’ conversations from afar or swimming in the Mediterranean. Periods of silence. Growing with two lovers over a lengthy period of time. A non-linear narrative. Innovative editing. All of these variables set the stage for the next generation of like-minded films that would emerge decades later. Only the Before Trilogy would rival its perfect analysis of an imperfect relationship.
Dedicated to Albert Finney, Audrey Hepburn, & Stanley Donen.