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Millstreet Films, 2023
André van Duren / Elisabeth Lodeizen, Paul Jan Nelissen, André van Duren
📷 : Used with permission, Netflix
Suspenseful and intense thrillers
Nonfamily dramas with strong socioeconomic themes
In her 2014 TED talk, Professor Anne Curzan, a linguist at the University of Michigan, addresses how words get into dictionaries and become legitimated as part of our everyday vernacular. During her lecture, she states, “I am struck as a teacher that we tell students to critically question every text they read, every website they visit — except dictionaries.” Hmmm. I wonder then about the degree to which we take the meaning of some words for granted, words like “trust.” Dictionaries write that trust is all-inclusive, that a person is all-in with their belief and/or reliance on a person or thing. But Professor Curzan later states in her talk that words and their meanings are fleeting, changing over time. Perhaps this is the case with the word “trust,” which is at the center of Dutch director André van Duren’s film, Faithfully Yours.
Beginning in present-day Netherlands, Faithfully Yours is about two close female friends, Bodil (Bo) and Isabel (Isa), who take a break from their stressful jobs and go away for the weekend. Both are married and professional women. Bo, a judge whose husband Milan is a physician, and Isa, seemingly a professor or researcher whose husband Luuk is a mystery writer, take these excursions to attend intellectual events. This weekend, they tell their spouses, respectively played by Nasrdin Dchar (D3 12 van Oldenheim, Rabat) and Gijs Naber (Judas, Penoza), that they are attending a lecture in Belgium.
We begin to realize something is off when during their talk on the train, Isa gives her phone to Bo and informs her where she needs to be and when to text Luuk over the first half of the weekend. Bo looks mildly surprised until Isa adds, “Luuk’s totally unaware that I know he installed a GPS tracker on my phone. ... I got myself a burner phone. This is my number.” Handing Bo a piece of paper, Isa concludes, ”And after that, you’re free to do your thing for the rest of the weekend.” Bo smiles and replies, “Thanks. Next time I’ll make the plans.” The exchange comes across as perfunctory for the two women. And when they arrive in Belgium, situate themselves in front of the Oostende train station to take a picture “for the boys back home” and then go off in opposite directions, it becomes clear that these weekends along with the detailed planning are indeed routine for them. Bo heads to the spacious cottage she owns and Isa checks into her usual exclusive hotel.
Weekend escapes are typically marketed as ways of getting away from stresses and routine that dominate our everyday lives. So escaping is about changing it up, letting go, and having a bit of uninhibited fun as Bo and Isa do on this weekend - in their own unique ways. Played respectively by Bracha van Doesburgh (Kerstappels, De maatschap) and Elise Schaap (Ferry, Undercover), the two women are enjoying themselves when Luuk calls Bo distressed that he cannot reach Isa. He has injured himself and needs her to return home.
Bo relays the message to Isa who says she will stop by the cottage for her phone before leaving. But things go awry when Bo returns from a swim to find a pool of blood in the foyer of her cottage and no sign of Isa. Unable to reach her by phone, Bo alerts the Belgian authorities and notifies Luuk and Milan back in The Netherlands. Both arrive later, and over the next few days of the investigation, relations begin to devolve as Luuk blames Bo for Isa’s disappearance.
In this sense, Faithfully Yours is similar to the 2014 film Gone Girl, where Ben Affleck plays a man whose wife suddenly disappears and questions around what happened to her linger for much of the movie. This is where the similarities end however, as Gone Girl was dark with an ominous tone. While Faithfully Yours is serious and suspenseful, it is neither dark nor scary.
Indeed, what is revealed about Milan and Luuk during this stressful period is their level of intentional dependence on their wives and the lengths they go to keep them within their control. This does not occur through physical handling, but rather emotional manipulation and modern-day technology. The fact that the methods used do not involve touching does not make it any less problematic, invasive, or suffocating for the women. In fact, they make it feel like broken trust. Over the course of the 96 minute film, we come to understand that Bo and Isa’s weekend excursions are not so much about escaping the stresses of their jobs, but much more so about escaping the constraints of their spouses.
The matter does beg the question though: Are Luuk and Milan manipulating and controlling because they are generally distrusting? Or has Bo and Isa’s dishonesty about how they spend their weekends bred their husbands’ distrust of them? Perhaps it’s time for “trust” to be critically questioned as something that suggests full investment. Maybe a new definition that reflects the flawed nature and fallibility of human beings is in order – at least for now.