Love Is Strange
dir Ira Sachs
scr Ira Sachs, Mauricio Zacharias
prd Lucas Joaquin, Lars Knudsen, Ira Sachs, Jayne Baron Sherman, Jay Van Hoy
with John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, Marisa Tomei, Darren E Burrows, Charlie Tahan, Eric Tabach, Cheyenne Jackson, Manny Perez, Harriet Harris, Christina Kirk, Christian Coulson, John Cullum
release US 22.Aug.14, UK 5.Dec.14
14/US 1h40
Love Is Strange
Longtime companions: Lithgow and Molina

tomei burrows jackson
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Love Is Strange Gentle and almost overwhelmingly bittersweet, this drama is packed with such engaging characters that the weaknesses of the plot don't seem too distracting. It has something powerful to say about extended relationships as it explores a long-term romance in a quietly moving way.

After 39 year together, Ben and George (Lithgow and Molina) are finally able to legally get married. But their idyll is short-lived: returning from honeymoon, George is sacked from his job as a Catholic school music teacher because his marriage is too public. Unable to afford their flat, they sell it and find temporary accommodation separately. Ben takes the bunk below teen Joey (Tahan), son of his workaholic nephew Elliot (Burrows) and his wife Kate (Tomei). Meanwhile, George sleeps on the sofa of partying neighbours Ted and Roberto (Jackson and Perez).

There are plenty of nagging issues here: clearly subletting their flat is a better option than selling it. And surely it's better to stay together, even if that means moving in with their friend (Kirk) in Poughkeepsie. While the script never quite makes a case for their homelessness, it finds resonance in their predicament. Ben's presence further strains Elliot and Kate's relationship, which is complicated by Joey's rebellion with his pal Vlad (Tabach). And George can't get any sleep in Ted and Roberto's buzzing flat.

The solution to all of this feels a bit simplistic, but Sachs lets the characters breathe deeply along the way. Lithgow and Molina are wonderful in the roles, powerfully capturing the sense of their years together without ever resorting to sentiment. And the relationships with the people around them are prickly and difficult, but undercut with real affection. Tomei, Burrows and Tahan are excellent in the most fully formed roles.

Because of its relaxed pacing and introspective approach, the film never becomes heavy-handed about the political issues it raises. This isn't a movie about gay rights, economic turmoil, rent control or even our responsibility to care for each other. It's a story about the power and fragility of love and companionship across three generations. It's also clearly a story about the importance of art - George is a musician, Ben is a painter, Kate is a writer - to shape the way we see each other in more honest ways than the church would like us to.

cert 15 themes, language 24.Sep.14

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© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall