The unlikely lovers at the center of “Félix and Meira” — he’s a 40-ish atheist bachelor; she’s a Hasidic wife and mother nearly 20 years his junior — joke at one point about which one of them is the weirdo. Living an almost cloistered lifestyle in the middle of her multicultural urban neighborhood, Meira (Hadas Yaron) surreptitiously listens to her beloved soul music records behind the back of her dour and uncomprehending husband, Shulem (Luzer Twersky). Félix (Martin Dubreuil), on the other hand, is something of a bohemian misanthrope: worldly and a bit lost, with no discernible income.
The truth is that they are both pretty alienated.
In Meira’s case, it’s because she feels stifled by the repressive, patriarchal culture of Orthodox Judaism in Montreal’s Mile End neighborhood, where they both live and meet. For Félix, the crisis is more existential; the recent death of his estranged father has left him feeling adrift and without purpose.
What’s more, Meira speaks mainly Yiddish; Félix, mainly French. Occasionally, the two use English to try and bridge the giant gap between them as they evolve together from tentative friends to only slightly less tentative paramours.
That we almost don’t question the plausibility of this oddest of odd couples is a tribute to the sensitive direction of French Canadian filmmaker Maxime Giroux, who wrote the relatable yet keenly observant script with Alexandre Laferrière.
“Félix and Meira” moves forward slowly and (mostly) without histrionics or affectation. The rare exceptions include a scene in which Shulem follows his wife to an assignation with Félix, slapping his romantic rival to the sidewalk like a petulant schoolboy. Later, in an even more preposterous sequence, Félix follows Meira to an Orthodox social event, donning a pair of fake forelocks and a long crepe wool beard, along with a traditional shtreimel hat, as a disguise.
But these silly bits are easily forgotten in a story that feels authentic, even — perhaps especially — when it shows us how awkward, maybe even distant, Félix and Meira are with each other. There’s a subtext to this love story that seems to say we’re all islands, in one way or another.
“I don’t know where I am anymore,” Meira says, in a story that jumps between Montreal, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Venice, and that has a feeling that’s both out of place and strangely out of time.
As Félix and Meira ride a gondola toward the end of the movie, it feels less like the happy ending that some in the audience will crave than a questionable beginning. The looks on Félix and Meira’s faces suggest nothing so much as the looks on Dustin Hoffman and Katharine Ross’s at the end of “The Graduate”: utter contentment gradually giving way to confusion.
R. At area theaters. Contains a scene of sexuality and nudity. In French, Yiddish and English with subtitles. 105 minutes.