A love story fit for the modern era is perhaps the best way to describe Ira Sachs‘ new film “Love is Strange” (R). It’s a touching and sometimes funny effort that evokes emotional elements from situations that we’ve become accustomed to seeing and yet meanwhile, creating such a film even a full decade ago- at least on this scale- feels unimaginable. Our collective acceptance and societal celebration of same sex relationships have undoubtedly improved- especially here in New York City- likely as a byproduct of the partnerships forged in front of us in so many trailblazing Hollywood scenarios. “Love is Strange” is most certainly a love story, and in many ways though identifiable, is also, at least in film, a bit strange.
Sachs utilizes an absolutely stellar ensemble to deliver his poignancy as the film follows the marvelous pairing of Alfred Molina (George) and John Lithgow (Ben), as two long term homosexual partners and life mates. It’s a loving relationship that their families have long supported- for more than four decades- but it’s also one that proves disastrous for George, a music teacher at a strict Catholic school. Once word of the pair’s marriage is made public to school officials, the loss of George’s job means that the men, now in their 60′s, are forced to leave their apartment and subsequently, their love is tested by the necessity of having to live separately among their family members as they seek out new quarters.
The film often reeks of authenticity, depicting the very real burdens that circumstances like aging and finances can play when interwoven in a familial setting, situations which can become perilous as time elapses. You can relate to the frustration of the older men in their attempts to acclimate to their new surroundings, just as you can relate to stay-at-home writer Marisa Tomei (Kate) and son Charlie Tahan’s (Joey) equally frustrating lack of privacy with their new house guest. In the end, family certainly prevails and despite the uneasiness that prevails for much of the slice-of-life piece, Sachs does an admirable job of allowing his characters to tie everything together in a nice bow by the film’s conclusion.
There’s much to be said here for the work of Molina and Lithgow as the film’s leads, both of whom allow moviegoers to escape into these very real portrayals as a result of their vulnerability. Tomei meanwhile is her typically excellent self, the epitome of an actress who continues to churn out strong performance after strong performance in spite of her graceful aging. But the collective cast shines together in Sachs’ vision, a fittingly ordinary portrayal of a New York City couple dealing with an extraordinary set of challenging yet relatable circumstances. And the overarching theme that amid the strife and the chaos, no matter how eccentric the setting, a couple’s love reigns supreme.
“Love is Strangeâ€ starring Alfred Molina, John Lithgow and Marisa Tomei is rated R, has a runtime of 94 minutes, and is in limited release on Friday, August 22nd.
- Jane Van Arsdale