The gentle understated Love Is Strange begins as an examination of the difficulties faced by same sex couples but ends up as a more conventional indie family drama.
George (Alfred Molina) and Ben (John Lithgow) play a recently married couple enjoying life in an upmarket New York apartment. When, in a reaction to the wedding, the catholic school where George teaches music fires him, he and Ben are forced to sell their home and temporarily bunk in with family members. Unfortunately, this means living apart as former artist Ben moves in with his nephew Elliot (Darren burrows), his novelist wife Kate (Marissa Tomei) and their sullen teenaged son Joey (Charlie Tahan) while the sophisticated, classical music loving George lands on the couch of young, party animal neighbours Roberto (Manny Perez) and Ted (Cheyenne Jackson).
The film unspools at a leisurely pace as George and Ben struggle to adjust to these awkward arrangements. The genteel drama only reaches a palpable level of tension when the troubled and slightly obnoxious Joey begins to resent his uncle’s presence in the house.
John Lithgow delivers a restrained yet moving portrait of an ageing man trying to hold onto some degree of dignity while Alfred Molina gives George a likeable sophistication and wry wit. Much of the film focuses on the difficult relationship between Ben and Kate as she attempts to write her next novel but faces constant interruptions from Ben who, amusingly seems oblivious to the fact that he is messing with her schedule.
Not every character or situation is developed to the extent that audiences may wish but this sensitive meditation on ageing, art, relationships, prejudice and acceptance is one of the year’s low-key gems. It also features a final sequence that will move even the most hard-hearted of film goers.
Nick’s rating: ***1/2
Director(s): Ira Sachs.
Release date: 19th March 2015.
Running time: 94 mins.
Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM. Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. http://subcultureentertainment.com/2014/02/the-good-the-bad-the-ugly-film-show