France’s two greatest female stars unite in this bittersweet drama about unfinished relationships. Catherine Deneuve is hard-living Béatrice, who’s been living out of a suitcase for decades making a living as a gambler. She reenters Claire’s (Catherine Frot, Marguerite) life just as both their lives are about to change drastically. Claire is a midwife who’s clinic is about to shut down and it’s the one place she’s really alive. Béatrice disappeared from her life without explanation many years early, but suddenly wants to be a part of it again? Claire isn’t so sure. Though there are other storylines in the movie, the center is these two starkly different women growing to rely upon one another.

It turns out Béatrice was Claire’s father’s mistress, and they were very close before she left. But her leaving precipitated a huge tragedy in Claire’s young life. So she’s very reticent to strike up any sort of friendship when Béatrice calls out of the blue and invites her over. But what starts out as an awkward reunion develops into something else when Beatrice reveals that she is ill. Claire is a caretaker by profession and by need, and any lingering animosity aside, she’s there for Béatrice. It’s one of those stories about opening up to the world that you could probably read a lot into. Claire has been alone for a long time. Her son is in medical school, and she doesn’t have much of a life outside work, except for her garden. But through reconnecting with Béatrice, she begins to see herself differently and lets herself start having fun. She even hooks up with a guy!

The Midwife is really a character study about contrasting personalities influencing one another that benefits from having two amazing actresses at the center. There is nothing surprising in the script, but the subtle way that stubborn awkwardness gives way to compassion and friendship is beautiful. The film will probably feel slow to many, but I definitely recommend it to women of a certain age and French film lovers.

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