★★★★★ | Love Is Strange
Love Is Strange one of the most talked about gay movies of the year has been wowing both crowds and critics in the US since it opened in August. The New York Time’s Movie Critic recently said it would be his personal pick for the Best Picture Oscar. Now it is finally about to open in UK Cinemas, here is our take on this superb love story.
In Ira Sach’s follow-up to his highly acclaimed 2013 hit Keep The Lights On, love is also extraordinarily wonderful too. It’s the tale of George & Ben a devoted couple who have enjoyed a somewhat glorious life together in Manhattan for the past 39 years. Now that same-sex marriage is legal in NY they decide to have a joyous wee ceremony surrounded by their close friends to tie the knot and make it all ‘official’. Everyone is happy for the two men now in their late 60s, except for George’s employers who had been blissfully aware of his relationship with Ben in the 12 years he had taught music at their school. Marriage, however, was too much for them, the Catholic Church that is, so in an act of Christian charity they unceremoniously fired him on the spot.
With Ben already retired and George unable to find another job the men soon ran out of money and very reluctantly had to sell the Co-op Apartment that they had lived in for decades. Sadly none of their friends in the city had a spare room to put the couple up in, so for the very first time since they had met, they had to split up whilst the hunt for a new affordable Manhattan apartment continued.
George moved in with a couple of handsome young gay cops next door and crashed on their couch. The trouble was that his new ‘landlords’ had a seemingly endless list of young friends who loved to hang out at the apartment and party all hours, usually whilst sitting on George’s ‘bed’. Ben, on the other hand, was given a bunk bed in his great nephew’s room, something the young rebellious teenage bitterly resented.
As time passed, and with no sign of a new apartment for the newly weds, tensions got very strained. George could hardly bear living in party central and getting little sleep, and Ben seemed stuck in the middle of an escalating feud between his great nephew and his parents who saw eye to eye on nothing. It was when the latter eventually erupted and the boy was grounded after being caught out being led astray by a much older school chum, that there was a breakthrough between him and his old gay ‘nuisance’ Uncle. In a very touching scene when the boy broke down and didn’t just share but actually listened for once, he learnt from Ben about being true to himself and loving who he wanted too without shame.
It’s impossible to say where things led to from this point without giving spoilers in what is such a beautiful and touching story. It’s a neat lesson in hate (the Church), and in tolerance (the family) and a perfect example of love that is quietly understated and without histrionics.
George and Ben are portrayed so exquisitely by veteran actors Alfred Molina and John Lithgow and are the perfect epitome of a devoted couple completely in love and who totally idolise each other. The very obvious chemistry between the two on screen is completely convincing and they are a sheer joy to watch.
There is absolutely nothing ‘strange’ about George and Ben’s love especially as it is the focus and example to all the other couples in this charming story whether they are gay or straight.
Mr Sachs has created a fine feature about mature love that shouldn’t just be niche marketed as a ‘gay film’ as it deserves and will delight a much wider audience.
P.S. And I am thankful to him too that this is one ‘gay theme’ film that doesn’t have the obligatory nudity.