Love Is Strange Review

So I watched Love Is Strange…


Whenever I watch movies like this – arthouse, cinema nouveau pieces – I’m always drawn towards the words “honest” and “genuine” because that’s what these films generally tend to be. There’s no green screen or explosions to hide behind; the camera is placed on these actors and they have nothing but their own skill, the director’s suggestions and the script to use to try to entertain you. These works I tend to call ‘films’ instead of just movies. They are works of art and should be treated as such. Love Is Strange is a heartwarming film.

Okay, basic plot: Alfred Molina and John Lithgow are George and Ben, a same sex couple who get married after almost forty years of being partners. George is a Catholic school music teacher and when the powers-that-be find out about his marriage, he gets fired (even though they’ve known that he’s gay this entire time, I guess they were okay with the idea of homosexuality just not married homosexuaity, but anyway). Without George’s income, he and Ben can no longer afford their apartment and have to resort to living with friends and family, separately.

I know we’re living in a pretty liberal time and society is more tolerant than ever but I feel that the idea of same sex couples hasn’t quite made it’s way into cinema. When you think of a romcom or a love story, you still think boy meets girl, and in most instances, white boy meets white girl. That’s why I found this movie so refreshing. Look, the plot of this movie doesn’t demand the couple be same sex or heterosexual or transgender or anything, it’s just a story about two people, in love, facing adversity.I don’t know whether the script originally had the couple as same sex or during casting the two actors were so good that they decided to tell this story, I’m just glad that it happened. We need to stop placing limits on things, there are no ‘gay’ stories or ‘straight’ stories, there are just stories and we should pick the best people available to tell them. Whether they be Male, Female, Transgender, Black, White, Asian, Christian, Muslim or whatever. It shouldn’t matter, the best people for the job should be picked to do it.

But anyway, excuse that little rant I just had. Let’s get back to talking about this film, which is a great watch. Alfred Molina and Jon Lithgow put in performances that are second to none. I loved watching the two of them on screen and they are probably one of the most believable on-screen couples I’ve ever seen. The quiet moments where the two are just supporting each other and hoping they can get through the storm, they’re currently facing, are my favourite. I’m a huge sucker for romcoms and these two, honestly, had me reaching for the tissues. Their acting is just flawless and so heartfelt. I’ve watched a lot of movies this year and I think this is definitely some of the best acting I’ve seen. It’s elegant and completely free of pretense or embellishment. They aren’t trying to shine or be fancy, they both just put in such honest performances and leave you spellbound.

These two are a delight
These two are a delight

This movie, sorry I mean film, is a real piece of art. Ira Sachs’ use of lingering shots and the pace the film has, really add to the quality of the story. This is one of those films that would be great for film study in school because, as wonderful as the acting is, often the things that really tell the story are the visuals and the camera angles chosen. I’m not a film expert, so I, no doubt, missed a great deal of the subtle nuisances in this piece but what I did pick up really impressed me. This film is very different from your normal mainstream cinema, it doesn’t have the traditional beginning, middle, climax and resolution of most movies, it feels more like a peak into the lives of the characters. The scenes are charming and subtle and don’t feel sensationalised – the director really lets the film speak for itself.

But Molina and Lithgow aren’t the only ones who put in worthwhile performances. I really liked Marisa Tomei, who plays the two men’s niece who is more than a little irritated with Uncle Ben coming to stay with her and her family. Charlie Tahan plays Tomei’s character’s son, he puts in a notable performance too, especially at the end of the movie.

What this film is really about is…love (shocking, I know). But this isn’t about the idea of love or the image of Hollywood love. This film shows that the side of love that is never really showcased in film. There are tons of movies about trying to find love and tons about losing love but not very many about sustaining love. That ‘we’ve been together for forty years but I still can’t fall asleep without you’ kind of love. It made me teary-eyed and reminded me of what I want to work towards in life but that’s just me being a big girl.

This movie is really one for the purists I feel. If you want a typical movie experience where things are more quickly paced and there isn’t a great need for inspection of the technical points of the film, I don’t think you’ll like this movie. But if you’re a bit more patient and are willing to see the finesse and beauty in film, I’d suggest giving it a watch. Not everyone’s cup of tea but definitely mine, 8/10.

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