“Sometimes when you live with people, you know them better than you care to”
The move to a more sensitive, nuanced portrayal of lives well-lived is none more evident than in the excellent Love is Strange. Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias’ screenplay puts John Lithgow’s Ben and Alfred Molina’s George, a happy couple of nearly 40 years standing at the heart of its story and pleasingly lets them remain (relatively) happy. Instead, the trials in their life come from the fallout of finally deciding to tie the knot, it leading to one of them losing his job.
Financially up against it, Ben and George find themselves having to sell their much-loved apartment in New York City and with limited options in a tough real estate market, end up living apart with friends and family as no-one has room for them both. Separated and going through a transitional time, it is the relationships of those with whom they’re staying that get put under the microscope, particularly Ben’s nephew and his family.
Thus it is love in all its forms and life as a whole that becomes the subject at hand. The nephew and wife are experiencing a bump in their marriage (Darren Burrows and Marisa Tomei on blistering form), their teenage son Joey bristles at having to share a bunk bed with his grandad during a time of pubescent exploration, the gay cops (Cheyenne Jackson and Manny Perez) putting up George struggling to adjust their own family unit to really accommodate his needs.
The way in which the desire not to impinge too much on people doing you a favour, whilst having no other possible choice, is beautifully depicted (a gorgeously awkward scene of whispered argument capturing this perfectly). And it reinforces the difficulty – and the importance – of being kind, the depth of the love between Ben and George a truly moving affair in the hands of Lithgow and Molina, and ultimately heart-breaking as the final act twists out in quiet reflection.
Love is Strange is one of the few films in recent years to really earn the plaudit ‘multigenerational’ and mean it, giving us a real couple connected to all sorts of other people – gay, straight, old, young, happy, sad, and above all human. It reminds us we’re all full of hopes and fears, things that never go away even if they might change a bit. Love may be strange, but it is also beautiful.