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The thought of growing old is rarely a pleasant one. Sure, many of us look forward to our retirement—to seeing the world or buying a second home on the beach. But no one really likes to think about what comes later—of growing old and weak or perhaps having to care for a loved one who’s steadily declining. Writer/director Michael Haneke explores that heartbreaking reality in the quietly affecting French drama Amour.

Oscar nominee Emmanuelle Riva tackles a taxing role as Anne, a retired music teacher who shares a flat in Paris with her husband, Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant). One morning, during breakfast, Anne goes silent—and the brief but troubling spell eventually leads to a critical surgery that leaves her right side paralyzed.

Though Georges promises Anne that he’ll never take her back to the hospital or put her in a nursing home, he struggles to care for her with the help of a part-time nurse. And as Anne’s health declines, their daughter (Isabelle Huppert) tries to persuade Georges to let go.

If you’ve seen either version of Haneke’s torture flick, Funny Games, you know that the acclaimed director doesn’t shy away from uncomfortable situations. In fact, he revels in them. And, for that reason, Amour is an absolutely agonizing drama. Haneke pulls no punches here, taking the time to capture every excruciating moment of Anne’s decline, as her health fails and her mind soon follows.

At times, Amour is a touching portrayal of a man’s love for his wife. Georges often shows remarkable patience as he remains by her side, first reading to her and chatting with her about books and movies, then helping her with her exercises, then struggling to feed her. But he also has those moments when he hits his breaking point—when it seems as though he just can’t take any more. Anyone who’s watched a loved one fade away before their eyes will relate to the pain and heartbreak that Georges experiences—and that makes the story (and Georges’ unwavering love and dedication) all the more touching.

As you might expect, though, Amour is not an easy film to watch. While the performances are both beautiful and heartbreaking, the film is long and slow and quiet. In just over two hours, not a lot happens—and when it all comes to an end, it will most likely leave you scratching your head, wishing it had offered just a few more answers and a little more closure.

Amour is definitely a moving drama about enduring love. But its agonizing subject matter and its sparse story make it a difficult film to finish. So if you do choose to see it, be sure to come prepared—with coffee and tissues.

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