Sometime in the 1950s, two Britons, Mark and Joanna Wallace, meet while vacationing in the south of France. They fall in love, get married, and raise a daughter over a period of ten years, continuing to take regular vacations to the south of France. The film follows them over multiple French vacations as their relationship changes and evolves, the bloom of first love fades, and they have to figure out how to live together.
One of the more famous examples of Anachronic Order in film history, as the narrative continually jumps back and forth between their first whirlwind courtship, a considerably more strained relationship a decade later, and various points in between.
Two for the Road provides examples of:
- The Alleged Car: The MG gives them a lot of trouble, ultimately becoming completely undriveable.
- Anachronic Order: The situation keeps jumping through time with no predefined order, giving more and more details about the whole relationship as the movie progresses. In whole, according to Donen, five different stages of the relationship are depicted in the film.
- Beta Couple: The Manchesters, Howard (William Daniels) and Cathy (Eleanor Bron), who have a relationship that's seemingly happy but also superficial, in contrast to volatile-but-deep coupling of Mark and Joanna.
- Bilingual Bonus: Par-ci, par-là.
- The City vs. the Country: They mostly don't visit any cities. The scenery is mostly countryside, woods and small villages.
- Entitled to Have You: Mark behaves this way, but puts it to question after Joanna cheats on him.
- French Jerk: Not completely jerks, but surely greedy, self-centered or dorky.
- Idle Rich: The Manchester family with whom they travel and Maurice, Mark's boss.
- Ironic Echo: A bunch of scenes.
- Literal Metaphor: The MG eventually catches fire and has to be abandoned by the side of the road. The French official who has to handle the disposal of their car invents a series of extortionate fees. Finally an exasperated Mark says "this is literally highway robbery!"
- Love Confession & Love Epiphany: Joanna is already in love, but Mark suddenly considers it when she tells him.
- Love Triangle: A minor one, before they get together, and a major one later, almost leading to divorce.
- Match Cut: A couple of times for transitions.
- One scene cuts from Howard spraying his incessant bug spray, to a scene where Mark sprays Joanna in the bath with the shower head.
- Another scene cuts from 10-years-later Joanna wringing out a rag in the hotel room, to 10-years-earlier Joanna wringing out her hat as they walk through the pouring rain.
- Relationship Upgrade: After meeting several times by chance (on the ferry, on the road, hitchhiking), Joanna shows up from behind a roadsign and they finally get together.
- Rich Boredom : They seem to be facing it when they travel the first time but then, it seems to be the reason they travel back to France too. Repeatedly.
- Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: The American Manchester family, as a criticism of establishment, with the Spoiled Brat.
- Road Trip Plot: There's no true origin point nor any destination, but the plot follows the roads of France.
- Running Gag: Mark keeps losing, or forgetting, his passport. But Joanna always has it, so they can move on.
- Say My Name: When Mark and Joanna don't shout each other's names or address this way, other characters do.
- Spoiled Brat / Lonely Rich Kid: "Oh, Ruthie". See Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense.
- Trademark Favorite Food : Mark seems to have a thing for French apples.
- Upper-Class Twit: Again, the Manchesters.