Director: Ira Sachs
Starring: John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, Marisa Tomei
Running time: 94 minutes
A newlywed couple find themselves facing financial troubles. Think you’ve seen this film before? Well, you haven’t. At least not in this format. While you’re most likely imagining an attractive straight couple, instead, wrap your head around the impossibly charming combination of John Lithgow and Alfred Molina, and you’ll have Love Is Strange.
The film, directed by Ira Sachs, centres on Ben (Lithgow) and George (Molina), who after dating for 39 years, finally decide to tie the knot. However, their festive union is cut short when they fall into financial woes after an extravagant honeymoon, and George is brusquely fired from his job as a music teacher at a Catholic school after the disapproving officials of the Church hear of his recent marriage. The fact that George is a pensioner does not help their economic situation, especially living in a city as expensive and cut-throat as New York. Eventually, the couple must sell their apartment and find lodging elsewhere – which is where the story kicks off. The newlyweds are forced to live apart in different homes, with Ben living with his nephew and his family, while George bunks in with some friends, a young same-sex couple. Not surprisingly, this creates some frictions in the households, and the well-meaning friends who took them in eventually find themselves wishing them gone. This is especially the case of Ben’s nephew’s family – his caring but frustrated wife Kate (Marisa Tomei), and his awkward teenage son Joey (Charlie Tahan), who is forced to share a bunk bed with the 71-year-old Ben.
These exasperations are depicted with such gentle grace, that you cannot even begin to feel irritated with any of the characters, although you can relate to the emotional strain of having guests overstay their visit. The fragile atmosphere of the film is punctuated with music from Chopin and Beethoven, but above all else it is Lithgow’s breath-taking and restrained performance that leaves you in awe. His quiet yet earnest acting fills the screen with a tender warmth, which leaves you smiling, and finally with tears streaming down your face. The deceptive subtlety and simplicity of the film gives you quite an unexpected emotional punch towards the film’s ending, where only the coldest and most hard-hearted will remain unmoved.
The emotion of the story and acting gives us a poignant view on elderly same-sex couples in a time where homosexual marriages are slowly becoming legal throughout the United States. The added dimension of the recent economic crisis makes this film all the more relevant for modern viewers. If all this cannot convince you to see Love Is Strange, go just for the sake of seeing Lithgow and Molina give us the cutest couple on screen in recent years. I found myself audibly saying ‘aww’ in the cinema, which apparently is looked down upon. Try and fight the urge yourself.