Ira Sach’s previous feature Keep the Lights was an intimate study of a young man desperately seeking true love, as we proceed to document the devastation that inevitably ensues, in what was a poignant and somewhat unsympathetic drama. However he now returns with something a little warmer and tender, in the quite brilliant Love is Strange.
Having been together for 39 years, Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) finally decide to tie the knot, though their celebrates are halted, when a mere matter of weeks into their marriage, and George is fired from his job at the local church because of making his homosexual relationship ‘official’. Struggling to make ends meet, the pair sell their house, and while searching for a new apartment, Ben moves in with his nephew (Darren E. Burrows), his wife (Marisa Tomei) and their teenage son, Joey (Charlie Tahan), while George sleeps on the sofa at their former neighbours. Though only a short-term arrangement, the pair struggle to spend so much time apart from one another.
The lead two performances by Lithgow and Molina are breathtaking, and their chemistry undeniable. The way in which they light up in each other’s company is inspiring, as there’s a sparkle in their eyes that’s only present when with one another, the only time they seem genuinely comfortable and happy. The fact they’re gay is pivotal to the story, naturally, as it’s why George loses his job, but it’s merely a springboard in this instance, as Sachs simply explores love and relationships in general. Love is Strange is not about sexuality, it’s about love. Itfocuses on the dynamics to their marriage, and it’s effectively going against the entire point of the film to dwell on their sexual orientation.
They aren’t the only intriguing characters within this title however, as Sachs – once again alongside co-writer Mauricio Zacharias – has created an array of quirky, well rounded supporting roles that each add something to this title, as nobody is wasted. We drift fluently between their own unique lives and situations in a very Woody Allen type way, bearing similarities to the likes of Hannah and her Sisters, in that respect.
Love is Strange is extremely subtle and touching cinema. Sachs is seemingly aware that it’s not always about what we see, and he leaves much of the key plot points to our own imagination, and the film benefits as a result. Authenticity takes precedence in this naturalistic piece, while the melodic, predominantly piano based score compliments the piece wonderfully, creating this enchantment of sorts. This film highlights that love can indeed be strange, but it also shows us that it can be a delightful and glorious thing.