Love Is Strange

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

“Love is Strange” (2014)

Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) have been together as a couple for 39 years. They live in a spacious apartment in New York City; Ben is retired and living on a pension, and George teaches music at a private Catholic school. They have a nice, comfortable life surrounded by friends and family. They decide to get married, something they had only dreamed about in the past. It’s a decision that will change their lives forever.

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The archdiocese finds out about their getting married and decides that George is in violation of a morals clause in his contract. George is fired and without his income, they are forced to sell their apartment, with the idea that in a few weeks they will find a new place to match their lower income level. In the meantime, the couple moves to separate sleeping arrangements George moves in with a nephew who is a firefighter. Ben moves in with other relatives, Joey (Charles Taha), his wife Kate (Marisa Tomei), and their teenage son Elliot (Darren Burrows). Both men are moving into situations that are not ideal. Not only do they miss each other’s company, George is sleeping on the couch at an apartment that seems to be holding a never-ending party. Ben isn’t doing any better, having to share a room with a pissed off teenager who resents having a roommate. Ben and George’s faith and love for each other is going to be tested like never before. It will either make their relationship stronger or it will break them.

Love Is Strange

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

“Love is Strange” is a quiet, beautiful and moving film that explores what happens when families are tested by circumstances beyond their control. After a particularly challenging day living with Joey’s family, Ben tells George, “Sometimes when you live with people, you learn more than you care to.” The film deals with the complex problems of the elderly moving into their relative’s homes. Kate especially feels the pressure as she is left at home, trying to write a book, as George continually interrupts her. There is a scene where Tomei displays her prowess as an actress, as we see frustration build in her body language as George pushes her to the brink of exploding.

Love Is Strange

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

The heart of this film is the performances by John Lithgow and Alfred Molina. Their chemistry on the screen is so perfect, you believe that these two men have loved each other for thirty-nine years. Molina playing the stronger, more positive thinking of the two men, is impressive, giving us a range of emotions from deep sorrow to absolute joy.  His performance is summed up in a scene where he is teaching a young girl how to play Chopin on the piano. He shows his displeasure at her initial playing of the piece, but after telling her to find the music inside of herself, he is brought to tears by her inspired playing. Lithgow gives the more restrained, but equally brilliant performance, playing the older and more pragmatic man of the two. Lithgow has more to play with in the film, as he gets to play against Marisa Tomei’s family. His interaction with both her character and Elliot are beautiful to watch. Ben attempts to reach Elliot, a teenager trying to figure out his place in the world, is tender and moving, making them some of the best scenes in the movie.

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Love Is Strange

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

The cinematography of Christos Voudouris and the musical score of Susan Jacobs perfectly blend together to illustrate the mood and thoughts of the film’s characters. Director / co-writer Ira Sachs and writer Mauricio Zacharias, let scenes naturally evolve, letting the actors slowly reveal the inner workings of their characters. The ease that the actors execute their lines in this film is a testament to the naturally flowing dialogue of the film. There isn’t a scene that feels unnatural or forced. It’s a film that allows its characters quiet moments that become quite moving. “Love is Strange” shows how fragile most of our comfortable worlds are. In just one swoop, we can lose a job or a promotion and have our living situation change so quickly. It’s a movie that can become bittersweet at times, but shows us the power of faith, family and love to conquer whatever obstacles life throws at us.   My Rating: Full Price 

My movie rating system from Best to Worst:  1). I Would Pay to See it Again  2). Full Price  3). Bargain Matinee  4). Cable  5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again

“Love is Strange” is playing in Atlanta at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema and AMC Phipps Plaza 14

“Love is Strange” Website

 

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