Love is Strange

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This is the second in a trilogy of films directed and co-written by Ira Sachs exploring the challenge of relationships. Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) decide to get married after 40 years together. However, shortly afterwards their relationship is tested when George is sacked from his job as choir master because the Catholic Archdiocese objects to their marriage.

Ben, an artist, is on a small pension. Without George’s wage they are forced to sell their Manhattan apartment and squeeze into the homes of family and friends. Ben has to share a room with his nephew’s son, while George moves in with his neighbours who like to party most of the night. The couple long to be reunited but sky-high rents in Manhattan make this a huge challenge.

The film shows the ways in which they each become stressed by the separation, as do the friends and relatives on whose goodwill they depend. This film is an exploration of love, the multiplicity of human relationships and the stresses that affect them. It is a moving portrait of a long-term relationship faced with unexpected challenges. The relationship between Molina and Lithgow becomes increasingly convincing as the film progresses.

The script gently challenges preconceptions of the audience through the twists and turns of the plot. The characters are respectfully portrayed with all their contradictions and foibles. Joey (Charlie Tahan), the son of Ben’s nephew, is shown struggling with his friendships and parental relationships in a moving portrait of a young person grappling with growing up.

Filmed through the lenses of three generations, this is a family drama dealing with wider societal themes. It can descend into soapiness at times, but it is generally a satisfying examination of love and relationships in present day society. Combined with a beautifully lyrical Chopin score, there is a real sense of hope for humanity and the future.