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Best Movie Relationships Series - Leon/Mathilda

Leon/Mathilda from The Professional
Jean Reno, Natalie Portman, Gary Oldman.

This movie has all the elements to make it an ick fest - an assassin (Reno) takes in a just barely pubescent girl (Portman) and lets her live with him. Ew, right? But somehow the movie manages to create a sweet, meaningful relationship between the two without the squick factor. The two meet when Mathilda comes home with groceries one day to find a corrupt cop in her apartment, murdering her whole family over drugs. Terrified, Mathilda walks past her apartment and knocks on the next door, trying to look as if she has nothing to do with the dead family. The door she knocks on belongs to a hitman by the name of Leon. The moment in the movie where he stares at her crying face through the peephole for an unbearably long time before deciding to help her lets you in on exactly who he is. He doesn't hesitate because he's mean or uncaring - he hesitates because he's not smart enough to make big decisions on his own. This becomes clear when we see him trying to collect payment on a hit and being short-shifted. Leon barely speaks English and is not some cool man of violence that we're supposed to admire - he's a man too stupid to be good at any other work and this is where the movie goes in the right direction by not glorifying his choices. Then enter Mathilda whose whole family has been killed and she begins to idolize Leon for all the reasons the audience, and Leon himself, hate him. She romanticizes his violence and entertains notions about avenging her family, even going so far as to try to hunt down the corrupt police officer. The reason why this relationship works is because it stays away from romance, even though Mathilda develops a crush on Leon, and keeps him as a fatherly figure to her. This -saving Mathilda and protecting her - is Leon's one good act in life and the one thing he chooses to do without being told. He never becomes smart, he never stops being a pathetic figure, but we can see a sense of pride developing in him because of her. It's odd couples like this that are really interesting to watch. One of the best parts of the film is when Leon saves Mathilda from being shot and she jumps up and hugs him around the neck, and then we see a shot his and her feet as her boots dangle off the ground - it sums up their relationship perfectly.

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January 1, 2011 at 7:02 PM

This is one of my Mom's favorite movies.

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