By Corrina Antrobus @corrinacorrina
Love Is Strange does well to name itself as a statement over a question as this film makes no attempt to answer the rhetoric of what love actually is, instead choosing to subtly peer at its many shades.
Ira Sachs directs the long-term, newly-wed couple Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) who find themselves in a pickle when their recent marriage means George is sacked. George was a music teacher in a Catholic school and despite their previous blind eye to his open sexulity, now he’s actually married he’s out of a job proving it is perhaps religion, not love that is the strange thing in this chapter.
The job loss means the couple need to sell their beautiful home and take refuge with family and friends – none of whom can house them both enforcing a reluctant separation. How the pair maintain their loving relationship between two new temporary addresses (Ben ends up sleeping in his nephew’s bunk bed), at the same time as avoiding being a burden to their voluntary bed sponsors, provides the gentle, but obstacle-ridden, narrative path.
The most touching moments belong to Ben and George’s bar dates which although enforced in order to enjoy some quality time, seem to put a fizz back into their enduring partnership. Their tipsy reminiscing finally gives us a little more revelation to the previous weaknesses in the relationship which, now overcomed, clearly strengthened the bond that may have once been splintered.
Ben’s nephew’s wife Kate (Marisa Tomei) almost steals the show as she expertly projects a woman trying to hold on to her own habitat, maintain her creative energy (she is a writer who works from home) all the while simmering to a boil about her guest nearing the end of their welcome. The fracturing of her cool offers insight to the ills in her own relationship with her son and husband as they both take different emotional approaches to their new lodger.
Ignoring the slightly implausible situation and the lack of real conclusion in their misfortune, the film is enjoyable if you’re willing to simply enjoy the gentle ride of these pleasant lives going through hard times. There’s an intimacy in how all the relationships in this film handle social and emotional changes even in the weight of the time they’ve endured, but despite the prickles and the occasional huffy fit, the centre of each is that little four letter word, for better or for worse.
Love is Strange is on general release from Friday 13th February.