LOVE IS STRANGE. Starring Alfred Molina, John Lithgow, Marisa Tomei, Darren Burrows, Charlie Tahen. Directed by Ira Sachs. 94 minutes. Rated M (Coarse Language)
A rather unfortunate title for a very gentle film. The love presented here is not accepted by many individuals, communities, even countries. It is same-sex love. However, this description does not quite do justice to the treatment of the theme in this film. It is a film that can be watched, calmly and with emotional interest, by most adult audiences. The emphasis is on loving emotion and commitment and does not dwell on the sexual behaviour of men in this kind of commitment.
The film does open with a same-sex marriage ceremony. The two participants have been together for 40 years. They are played, with energetic verve, by John Lithgow and with a gentle honesty by Alfred Molina. It is to the credit of these two actors that the film is emotionally persuasive, no matter what the moral stances of the audience. The other credit is to the writing by director Ira Sachs and his cowriter, Daniel .
The film takes for granted the relationship of the two men, Ben (Lithgow) a gallery manager and a painter, and George (Molina) a music teacher and choir conductor at a local Catholic school. As regards George and his presence in the school, the principal and staff, including priests, are aware of his relational situation. However, once he participates in the public union, the diocese feels that this public statement is not compatible with his role in the school and he is dismissed. The scene where he discusses the situation with one of the priests, a friend, does raise the issues of governments accepting same-sex ceremonies and the witness that that this gives to students in the school.
George’s losing his job changes the situation for both men, their not being able to afford their apartment. There is a meeting of their relatives and friends who all have an idea of what they should do for both men. The upshot is that Ben goes to live with his sympathetic nephew Elliot (Darren Burrows), the nephew’s wife, a writer, Kate (Marisa Tomei) and their teenage son, Joe (Charlie Tahen). George goes to stay with two gay friends, both policemen.
Much of the film shows, sometimes with humour, sometimes with wry feeling, the joys as well as the difficulties of these arrangements. In fact, Ben talks incessantly, shares a room with Joe much to Joe’s chagrin, especially when he wants privacy and working with a fellow-student on projects from school. Kate is sometimes driven demented by Ben’s incessant talk. On the other hand, George, a more simple and introverted soul, is content with his lot, even when his hosts put on a noisy party.
There is some solution for the two, even as they have to make arrangements to meet, coming from their different homes. There is a fine scene after they attend a concert where they reminisce about their past, Ben confesses to some failures in the relationship, George exercises his good-nature and patience.
There is a pleasing conclusion to the film, with some sadness, especially with Joe who has found dealing with Ben rather difficult, coming to George and treating him as a confidant for his questions about life.
Love is Strange is a very wide-audience friendly film about two gay men.
Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Release 19th March 2015