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.