It was never going to be an easy watch. Old age is something that will come to most of us and Haneke presents this in all its unblinking reality. In contrast to his overtly political The White Ribbon, Palme d'Or winner Amour is a personal and intimate affair that explores love and death.
Georges (Trintignant) and Anne (Riva) are an elderly married couple living in a well-to-do Parisian apartment. One morning, Anne has a stroke and, because of her fear of doctors and hospitals, Georges promises to take care of her at home, which has its own problems: he's too old to be helping her from wheelchair to bathroom and she's all too aware of the burden she is becoming.
Spending over two hours in the same four rooms induces a sense of claustrophobia, and as one becomes overly familiar with the surroundings, the affluent apartment begins to show its grubbier side: the pathetic fallacy of damp patches on the wallpaper and noticeable grime on the kitchen wall tiles feeds into the impending sense of doom. There are no schmaltzy moments to ease us through it, no nipping outside to visit the places they did when they were first in love. Haneke is more interested in exploring the unflinching reality of it all, the step-by-step awkwardness of helping her off the toilet or, later, applying the nappy. It may be longer than it needs to be but the day-to-day experience puts the audience in Georges's shoes, and we feel for him every step of the way.
Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva are perfect in their lived-in roles. It's Trintignant’s tenderness in the face of frustration and loneliness that gives the film its title but it's his co-star that steals the plaudits. The remarkable Riva's subtle descent doesn't drawn attention to itself until Trintignant imagines her spritely and happily playing the piano during a wishful dream sequence. Riva changes her appearance so much it's like a different actress in the later scenes.
Knowingly heart-breaking but refusing to rely on sentimentality to achieve it, Amour is the warmest film Haneke has made yet.