I was watching this film while someone else was nearby, casually watching. He remarked that this film was “not a good movie” because it lacked explosions and guns, and thus it was not exciting. I beg to differ – a great film doesn’t need anything other than a compelling story and the right people to bring that story to the screen. Whether that film involves action and adrenaline-pumping chase scenes, or a small and heartfelt love story, in the end, it all depends on how the film made you feel. This isn’t going to turn into another diatribe about how independent cinema is an amazing form of filmmaking (at this point, I should probably begin writing a weekly segment just defending independent cinema, shooting the breeze – but maybe another day). However, Love is Strange is a delightfully heartwarming and painfully human glance at the life of two people in love.
The story of this film seems somewhat bland and lifeless – an elderly couple have to reevaluate their lives after something dreadful happens. However, there is so much more going on behind this film. Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) have been together for nearly forty years, but only now, in their later years, decide to become married. George, who works as a music teacher at a Catholic school, is asked to resign after news of his wedding reaches the ears of those in power. Not having a source of income, the couple can’t just depend on Ben’s pension fund, so they are forced to go their separate ways – or at least live in a state of separation, because one lesson they learn is that many people are willing to help – just not help you enough, and being forced to life apart from each other puts a tremendous toll on their marriage and their lives altogether.
For some, they might see this film as being utterly lifeless – there is very little traditionally compelling narrative behind it. Even for an independent film, it is very quiet and reserved. However, it is perhaps because of this that Love is Strange becomes one of the most fascinatingly human films I’ve seen in a long time. It doesn’t aspire to be a hugely romantic story, with grandiose gestures and deeply passionate situations, nor does it aspire to be a film that discusses society and how it is not accepting to those they deem not suitable for modern life. There are absolutely no hidden agendas in this film. Rather it tells a deeply moving story about love in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. It is pure and visceral – if you are trying to find something that will be innovative and unique, then Love is Strange might not be for you. However, if you desire something real, something raw and above-all, something brilliantly moving, then you need not look any further, because this is a film that will drive you insane with the emotional roller-coaster that it is.
The two actors in the lead roles are two that I don’t recall ever having quite lead a film by themselves, which is wonderfully refreshing, because when supporting performers and character actors are put in the spotlight, more often than not amazing performances arise in fantastic films. John Lithgow is such an anomaly – he was extraordinary for so many years on 3rd Rock from the Sun, but his film career didn’t quite match his talents.Relegated towards supporting roles for most of his film career, he’s unfortunately done very little (or had very little given to him) that shows that he can lead a film quite as well as he lead the brilliant TV show. His performance in Love is Strange is splendid – he’s charming, deeply moving and very sweet, and he plays the role of the advancing Ben so wonderfully. He handles the character with such restraint and dignity, and even as his character deteriorates, he still manages to find the humanity and willpower in the character.
However, Alfred Molina (who is just so unbelievably talented in everything he does) simply acts circles around Lithgow, playing the deeply heartbreaking George, who has to face the consequences of his act of love. Molina is just fantastic, and I honestly wish this film had been seen more, because his performance was deeply moving and would have garnered him some truly deserved acclaim and attention from awards bodies (awards are not everything for a film, but with such a small film, it certainly helps in gaining it an audience). Marisa Tomei is also in the film, playing the deeply conflicted niece of Lithgow’s character who takes him in when he has nowhere else to go. Truly a real and humane performance Tomei gives, but she is shadowed in comparison to the two leads of this film – but I think everyone in this film is just in awe at how great Lithgow and Molina are, and there chemistry is so palpable and fascinating.
Love is Strange is such a great film. I loved it – it was heartfelt and very moving, and it represents a great chapter in the work of the very talented Ira Sachs. I urge everyone who would like a wonderful and tear-jerking experience to check this film out. It will leave you emotionally broken, but also very happy – because Love is Strange is much like how life really is – deeply sad at times, full of difficult decisions and a continuous mode of heartbreak, but ultimately it is filled with hope and many moments of joy. It is such a moving film, and it is just absolutely exquisite, and it is most definitely a film I want to revisit, and I hope everyone reading this will visit it for the first time, because it really is worth it.