Given the amount of money spent on advertising for Valentine’s Day, you could be forgiven in thinking that love consists of handcuffs, whips, expensive dining or tacky cards. Cinema itself often concentrates on extremes or confrontation when dealing with the subject of romance or love. Ira Sachs is more interested in quiet affirmation in his film Love is Strange. Relationships can be fraught and complicated, but Love is Strange embraces the realities of being in an almost life-long partnership.
Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) marry after being together for almost forty years. However, when the news reaches the archdiocese, George is sacked from his job as a music teacher in a Catholic school. Financial issues means they need to sell their beautiful apartment, and Manhattan being what it is, have to live apart until they find somewhere cheaper to live. Ben stays in Brooklyn with his work-oriented nephew Elliot (Darren Burrows), Elliot’s writer wife Kate (Marisa Tomei), and their troubled teenage son Joey (Charlie Tahan). George moves in with Roberto (Manny Perez) and Ted (Cheyenne Jackson) who live in the flat below their old apartment. They both struggle to deal with their new living arrangements and being apart for the first time in decades.
Love is Strange is the best film about love and relationships I’ve seen in a long time. The fact that they’re a same-sex couple is neither here nor there. Whilst “gay cinema” has enjoyed niche appeal for a while now, there’s been a noticeable shift of late. Largely thanks to the work of Peccadillo Pictures, the last couple of years has seen a steady stream of high quality films where sexuality is secondary to drama. Ira Sachs concentrates stresses and strains of George and ‘s relationship. Molina and Lithgow are both exceptional, as is Tomei as a frustrated wife and mother. Love is Strange is touching, funny and heartfelt.
Love is Strange is out in cinemas now.