A timely release with the recent hubbub over same sex marriages, Love Is Strange exists to show that marriage and life throws up unpredictable complications that we, regardless of sexual orientation, must negotiate. Ira Sachs’ film highlights the ordinariness of gay marriage by, well, not highlighting it at all.
Retired Lithgow and music teacher Molina have been a couple for twenty-odd years and have decided to marry. However, Molina is fired from his church-run school and, unable to afford their New York apartment, the couple seek alternative housing until a suitable apartment comes on the market. Lithgow moves in with his nephew Burrows, wife Tomei and their teen son, while Molina takes the couch of their younger, party-loving friends.
A sweet and tender love story that likes to revel in its quiet realism, this is a film that lives in its moments (dinners, rooftop paintings, bars), the easy-going nature of it all easy to slip into. These moments jut forward occasionally, leaving the audience to guess how much time has transpired and what has gone down in the interim.
Sachs, however, oddly keeps some major dramatic moments off screen, robbing his film of real poignant scenes, scenes that would be the high points of the story. Yes, the situation with Lithgow and the family throws up some tense situations – writer Tomei gets increasingly frustrated with Lithgow’s jabbering on, and Molina’s patience begins to wear thin - but the story is shorn of real narrative drive. There’s no character development. It might have its own lackadaisical rhythm but it drifts.
But lifelong friends Molina and Lithgow keeps events watchable, sharing some quiet chemistry when they’re on screen together – it’s a pleasure spending time with these people and it’s such a shame that the story gives them little to do and splits them up for the majority of the running time.
A ‘nice’ film - if the lack of thrust and strong goal doesn’t put one off there’s a lot to enjoy with the well thought-out, three-dimensional characters and lived-in performances.