Two Lovers (2008 film)

Two Lovers is a 2008 American romantic drama film, taking its inspiration from Fyodor Dostoyevsky's 1848 short story "White Nights",[3] which had already been turned into a film seven times, first by Luchino Visconti: Le Notti Bianche (1957). The film is directed by James Gray and stars Joaquin Phoenix, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Vinessa Shaw. It is set in the largely Russian Jewish neighborhood Brighton Beach in New York City, as was Gray's first film Little Odessa. Two Lovers premiered in competition at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival in May. The film was Gray's third to enter the competition at this festival. It was released on February 13, 2009.

Two Lovers
Two lovers ver2.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJames Gray
Written byJames Gray
Richard Menello
Produced byDonna Gigliotti
James Gray
Anthony Katagas
StarringJoaquin Phoenix
Gwyneth Paltrow
Vinessa Shaw
Isabella Rossellini
Elias Koteas
Moni Moshonov
CinematographyJoaquin Baca-Asay
Edited byJohn Axelrad
Distributed byMagnolia Pictures
Release date
  • May 19, 2008 (2008-05-19) (Cannes Film Festival)
  • February 13, 2009 (2009-02-13) (United States)
Running time
110 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$16.3 million[2]


Leonard Kraditor (Phoenix) is walking along a bridge over a stream in Brooklyn, when suddenly he jumps into the water in an attempted suicide. He changes his mind and quickly walks home to his parents' apartment. His mother Ruth (Rossellini), seeing him dripping wet, tells her husband Reuben their son has tried it again and it becomes evident that Leonard has attempted suicide before.

His parents tell him that a potential business partner and his family are invited for dinner that night and ask him to be present. When they arrive, Leonard finds that he had been set up with the other family's daughter, Sandra Cohen (Shaw). She inquires about his interest in photography and notices a photo of a girl above his headboard. He explains he had been engaged to the girl for several years, but the relationship was broken off when it turned out both he and his fiancée carried the gene for Tay–Sachs disease, which results in diseased children who generally don't live beyond age 12, so they would be unable to have healthy children.

Leonard meets a new neighbor, Michelle Rausch (Paltrow), and is immediately attracted to her, choosing to ignore that she is a drug addict. He learns that she is dating a married partner in her law firm, Ronald Blatt (Koteas). At her request, Leonard agrees to meet the pair for dinner at a restaurant. The couple leave him later that evening, as they have plans to attend the Metropolitan Opera. Leonard returns home dejected, but surprisingly, Sandra arrives, sent over by Leonard's parents. Believing that Leonard wanted her to come by, she realizes by his shocked expression that she was set up. She apologizes for the misunderstanding and says that, if he isn't interested, a lot of other guys are. Leonard says that he likes her, and they kiss and eventually make love, and with time, his relationship with Sandra deepens.

Michelle calls Leonard and says she is sick. He takes her to the hospital, where she has a D&C for a miscarriage. She had been unaware she was pregnant and is even more angry that Ronald ignored her calls. Leonard takes her home but hides when Ronald arrives. Ronald apologizes to Michelle for not having come to her aid, but Michelle coldly asks Ronald to leave and then asks Leonard to write something on her forearm with his finger while she falls asleep. Leonard writes "I love you".

Two weeks later, Michelle meets Leonard on the roof of their building and tells him that she has broken up with Ronald and is going to San Francisco. Leonard tells her not to leave and professes his love for her. They have sex and plan to leave together the next day for San Francisco.

On New Year's Eve, Leonard buys an engagement ring for Michelle. Sandra's father Michael then summons him and offers him a partnership in the family businesses, assuming that he is going to marry Sandra. Noticing the jeweler's gift bag Leonard is holding, the father assumes it is for Sandra; Leonard lies that it is.

During his parents' New Year's Eve party, Leonard hides in the courtyard to meet Michelle. Michelle arrives late and tells Leonard that she isn't going to San Francisco, because Ronald, having learned Michelle is leaving him for California, has decided to leave his wife and children for her. Disheartened, Leonard permanently breaks things off with her.

Feeling depressed, Leonard heads to the beach, intending to kill himself. When he drops a glove that Sandra had bought for him, he realizes that, in Sandra, he has found someone who loves him and with whom he can build a happy life. He picks up the glove and sees the boxed engagement ring lying on the sand, where he had thrown it from the boardwalk earlier. He returns to the party, where he gives Sandra the ring and embraces her in a tearful passionate hug.



Two Lovers received largely positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 82%, based on 167 reviews, with an average rating of 6.8/10. The website's consensus reads, "Two Lovers is a complex, intriguing, richly-acted romantic drama".[4] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 74 out of 100, based on 33 reviews.[5] Ray Bennett from The Hollywood Reporter defined the film as "an old-fashioned love story in which the melodramatic trapdoors of shock and surprise never open" and added that the film "will please many and it may win awards", though "the acting is (...) restrained." He also lauded the film as "a throwback to the days when love in the movies involved the mind as well as the heart."[6]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "Two Lovers (2008)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved 19 February 2021.
  2. ^ "Two Lovers".
  3. ^ "Two Lovers: James Gray Interview". At the Movies. June 3, 2009. Archived from the original on August 10, 2009. Retrieved August 10, 2009.
  4. ^ "Two Lovers (2008)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 17, 2020.
  5. ^ "Two Lovers Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved June 17, 2020.
  6. ^ Bennett, Ray (May 19, 2008). "Reviews: Two Lovers". The Hollywood Reporter, the Daily from Cannes. Cannes (8): 9.

External linksEdit