Starring John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, Marisa Tomei
After finally marrying his partner of 20 years, George (Alfred Molina) is fired from his long-time teaching position at a Catholic school. Given the financial pressures of suddenly finding themselves with less income, George and his ageing husband Ben (John Lithgow) must sell their apartment and move in with friends until they can find a lodging they can afford. Separated from each other, the couple find staying with others takes its toll.
Love Is Strange manages in its own bitter-sweet and gentle way to say a lot about love, relationships, family and acceptance. It examines issues of inequality, be that based on sexual orientation, age, or financial security. Never heavy handed about these matters, it draws the audiences attention to them, allowing them to make their own conclusions. At its heart though, it is the moving tale of two separated lovers.
In many ways this is a small movie. Director Ira Sachs is well aware of the limitations of his modest budget, and scales his ambitions accordingly. He tells the tale he wishes to tell and in the way he wishes to tell it, giving audiences a deeply personal look into the lives of two characters, rather than being too overtaken with the concerns of narrative drive. In fact Sachs is not overly concerned with holding the audiences hand throughout the narrative, to somewhat mixed results. In the main storyline this plays out for the better, with one key scene omitted from George and Ben’s relationship – instead we are thrown into the aftermath and share a sense of loss and confusion. In the sideline plots this is not so effective, with many plot points being added to minor characters that seem to really go nowhere, gaining no resolution.
Sachs also makes wonderful use of New York. A frequent character in his films, this time it is high urban density and the smaller living spaces of even the affluent citizens that play into the plot. As the character of Ben expresses, when you are living with someone you get to know them perhaps better than you would like .So the apartments are cramped and crowded, the streets, roof-tops and bars offer respite, allowing the audience to bask in the cityscape.
The true heart of this film, however, is the interaction between Lithgow and Molina. Separately they are great, but together they are just wonderful. There is a natural ease to their interaction, as if they have been a couple for 20 years and can effortlessly bounce lines off each other. A key concern for such central characters, it adds a level of utter believability to the story. It’s also good to see many familiar faces in support roles; Marisa Tomei, Darren E. Burrows and Manny Perez (as a gay and geeky cop) all crop up.
A small, but engaging movie, Love Is Strange manages to say a lot with a very gentle voice.
Love Is Strange screens at Somerville UWA from Monday, February 9, until Sunday, February 15, and at ECU Joondalup Pines from Tuesday, February 17, until Sunday, February 22, as part of Lotterywest Festival Films. For tickets and session times, go to perthfestival.com.au.