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Two Tickets to Greece

No theme is more frequent in movies than very different people taking a journey together. They're initially antagonistic, but they find a growing appreciation for one another throughout the story. Usually, one is careful and reserved, while the other is an impulsive and free spirit. The reason for the enduring appeal of these stories is the eternal human struggle between the ego and the superego. There's something funny but also satisfying about seeing reconciliation, even the integration of the two. The set-up immediately connects to us; all we need is some worthy details, vivid supporting characters, and, if possible, some nice scenery.   

And that is what we get in the watchable French film “Two Tickets to Greece,” the story of two middle-aged women who have not seen each other since their early teens and find themselves traveling together to the Greek Isles. As a character points out to Blandine (Olivia Côte), even her name sounds boring. Blandine’s husband left her two years earlier and is about to have a baby with his new, young wife. Magalie (Laure Calamy) lives for fun, excitement, and the triumph of petty cons like keeping the tags on an expensive shirt so she can wear it once and then return it. In a brief flashback as the movie begins, we see them as middle schoolers getting into trouble and laughing about it. 

When Blandine and her college student son are going through boxes of things that have been packed away for decades, she tells him about her old friend, and he surprises her by tracking down Magalie and inviting her to meet Blandine for dinner. She does not tell him it did not go well, so he surprises her again by inviting Magalie to accompany Blandine on the trip to Greece. When she tells him they cannot get along, he loses patience. “You have two weeks to kill each other or patch things up. I don’t care which.”

Blandine has planned a stay in a luxurious hotel on the island of Amorgos, where she and Magalie once dreamed of visiting together, inspired by a film they had never watched, Luc Besson’s “The Big Blue.” But Magalie is a chaos agent. The careful, precise itinerary Blandine had in mind, with a notebook and glue stick to document every step, is jettisoned. Others might make Magalie’s choices because they cannot imagine the consequences. But Magalie is so determined to enjoy every possible outcome that she welcomes the consequences. So what if they get kicked off the ferry boat on a different island than the one with the fancy hotel? No problem! “We’ll sleep under the stars!” 

They end up at a small, rustic inn. Happy wherever she is, Magalie dances joyfully on the patio (and on a tabletop), where the other guests are having dinner. In a very sweet moment, as Blandine watches, she sees Magalie not as she is now but as she was when they were friends, imagining dancing with her as they did in middle school.

What elevates this film above the usual trip-gone-wrong storyline is its gentle exploration of what links the two women beyond their history. This is a movie about processing grief: Blandine over the loss of her husband and the life she thought she would have; Magalie over early trauma briefly touched on as the women finally talk about what drove them apart. There is an element of frantic denial in Magalie’s ebullience and prolonged self-pity in Blandine’s unwillingness to move forward. This comes together with the introduction of a third character, who goes by the chosen name Bijou (jewel), played by the British actress Kristin Scott Thomas (“Four Weddings and a Funeral”). 

Bijou is Magalie’s friend. When the travelers find themselves stuck on yet another island that is not Amorgos, Bijou welcomes them into the beautiful home she shares with a Greek artist named Dimitris (Panos Koronis). She shares Magalie’s view that every minute of life should be fun, but in a quieter moment, Blandine learns that there is loss and worry underneath Bijou’s embrace of pleasure. And there is compassion as well. Scott Thomas does wonders with this role, creating a full, complex character and adding depth to the storyline. It is as much due to what she sees in Bijou as in the accumulated frustrations of the trip that lead Blandine (significantly re-named by Bijou) to begin to be honest about her feelings toward Magalie. Three times in the film, we see how uncomfortable Blandine is with nudity, her own and anyone else’s. But she learns that refusing to look left her missing important information and an opportunity for intimacy, not romantic or sexual, just a shared understanding with another person. Magalie learns there is value in slowing down to pay attention to someone else. In these gorgeous settings, away from home, they show us that a journey filled with unexpected detours can end up in a destination better than the one we plan.

Now playing in theaters. 

Nell Minow

Nell Minow is the Contributing Editor at RogerEbert.com.

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Film Credits

Two Tickets to Greece movie poster

Two Tickets to Greece (2023)

Rated NR

110 minutes

Cast

Laure Calamy as Magalie Graulières

Olivia Côte as Blandine Bouvier

Kristin Scott Thomas as Bijou

Antoine Levannier as Homme Babysitting

Mathias Minne as Gaëtan

Alexandre Desrousseaux as Benjamin

Nicolas Bridet as Maxime

Panos Koronis as Dimitris

Director

Writer

Cinematographer

Editor

Composer

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