Love is anything but Strange in Ira Sachs’ latest portrayal of love and affection in a relationship spanning over forty years. This bittersweet offering of a couple struggling with life and age is both as poignant and natural as their relationship itself.
The film begins on the morning of long-term couple Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) getting ready to tie the knot in an intimate setting surrounded by friends and family.
From the celebratory scenes after the wedding, it is clear that not only do the couple possess a strong backbone of support from loved ones, but also how admired and revered their relationship is to others.
Alas life kicks in and this is where things get tough for the couple. George loses his position as a music teacher at a Catholic School when his superiors hear the news of his marriage.
Relying solely on Ben’s pension and George’s music lessons provides too strong a financial burden and they are forced to sell the Manhattan apartment they have shared together for over four decades.
They have no choice but to seek the help and lodging from family and friends whilst they search for a more suitable pad. Ben moves in with nephew Elliott, niece-in-law Kate and their misunderstood teenage son Joey, who from the offset resents having to share a bunk bed with his 71-year-old uncle.
George moves downstairs to the couch of party loving gay cops Ted and Roberto who are lovingly referred to as the ‘policewoman’.
However soon the change in routine and living arrangements begins to affect the couple, as life apart from each other starts to take its toll. Ben begins to feel more and more like an unwanted burden in his nephews’ house and George struggles to grasp with inter-generational shifts and the constant party lifestyle of his hosts.
The seldom scenes of just the couple together highlight how vulnerable they are without each other and how each are handling the struggle of separation and isolation. These scenes appear raw and tender and the chemistry between Lithgow and Molina is evident.
The creativity of the couple is also given space to shine and Ben’s art influences visually as much as George’s passion for music is set to the graceful melodies of Chopin.
Whilst Sachs could have focused on the injustice of George losing his position or the chaotic jungle of New York real estate, he presents their story as what it is, a couple coping and supporting each other through thick and thin.
Love is Strange offers an authentic take on love and life’s tribulations as well as pointing out it’s the little things that can be full of emotion and heartfelt.
While the film is helped along by a strong supportive cast and secondary plots, the gentle and seemingly genuine connection between Lithgow and Molina is ultimately what makes this a winner.