Love Is Strange

LIS - quad - final
Directed by Ira Sachs
Starring John Lithgow, Alfred Molina and Marisa Tomei
On DVD and On Demand June 15th, 2015

by Joanna Orland

In the hands of lesser actors, the touching and grounded love and life story of Ben and George could potentially stray into the sappy and saccharine.  John Lithgow and Alfred Molina  give naturalistically tender performances, while director Ira Sachs wisely observes his characters in the restrained delicate drama Love Is Strange.

Ben (Lithgow) and George (Molina) have finally pledged their wedding vows to each other after 39 years as partners.  Unfortunate financial circumstance means that the couple are forced to live apart, reliant on friends and family.  The film explores not only the relationship between Ben and George, but extends to explore human relationships in general, between friends, family and the turmoils that life brings us all.  The acting is beautifully underplayed, and the directing even more-so as director Sachs intentionally leaves key scenes out of the film, somehow making their consequences have even stronger impact.

First and foremost, this film feels true.  Through the observational directorial style and naturalistic performances, there is a strong sense of realism that makes this film so affective.  The everyday human drama of particularly likable characters is more emotional than most Hollywood dramas, and Love Is Strange makes it all seem so effortless.  Even watching Ben and George eat their meals on their own has a strong emotional impact, as do all of the subtle scenes and events that happen in this film.  The subtlety is the key, which is why Sachs’ against-the-norm omission of big dramatic moments works so well.

While a very smart and beautiful film, Love Is Strange is not a perfect one.  The piano score overwhelms the drama often straying into that sappy and saccharine territory that the performances manage to avoid so flawlessly.  The lack of key scenes often means that the timeline is unclear, making much of the film seem almost like a montage or excerpt of someone’s life rather than a solid narrative.  But even so, the film’s characters and humanity affirm Love Is Strange as the beautifully tender observational drama that it is.

Leave a Reply