Esteban Gonzalez’s review published on Letterboxd:
“I believe the world is a better place if people aren't lying.”
Grounded on solid performances from John Lithgow and Alfred Molina playing a gay couple who have been in a relationship for nearly 4 decades, Ira Sach’s latest film is as authentic as it gets. Feeling more like a slice of life film than a generic romance, Sach delivers a tender, patient, and emotionally engaging movie with characters playing real people. The dialogue, which Sachs co-wrote with Mauricio Zacharias, feels completely natural and never sappy nor forced. One might be put off by the apparent simplicity of the premise, but it stands out from other films in the genre by never undermining the romance and centering it instead on the outer struggles the couple has to face. Love is Strange takes a different approach and instead of questioning the love between these two characters it centers on the obstacles they face once they are forced by the economy to find another place to live.
At the very beginning of the film we are introduced to Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) who after nearly forty years of living together have decided to get married. The marriage has immediate consequences in their lives after George is fired from his music teaching post at a Catholic school. They have always known he shared a relationship with Ben, but now that he is officially married the school authorities decided to fire him. Not having sufficient income to sustain their comfortable Manhattan lives, they are forced to sell the apartment. Until George can find a new job they decide to live apart for a couple of weeks. Ben moves into his nephew Elliot’s home (Darren E. Burrows) who lives with his wife Kate (Marisa Tomei) and their son Joey (Charlie Tahan). Meanwhile George stays with his good friends, Ted and Roberto, a gay couple who work as police officers and love to party. Both are having trouble adjusting to their new lives. Their relationship continues to be as strong as ever, but it is the difficulty to adjust to their current situation that becomes the main plot of the film. Ben’s presence becomes a bit of an inconvenience for Kate and her son Joey, while George has trouble adapting to his friends’ partying lifestyle.
The performances by Lithgow and Molina are refreshingly authentic. You believe these people have shared most of their lives together and sustain a solid relationship which also makes the separation that much harder. Their performance is what allows us to engage with the film despite having an ordinary and simple plot. Marisa Tomei also delivers a strong supporting role, but it’s Lithgow and Molina who draw us in. This isn’t a film about a tormented gay couple, it could very well have been about any ordinary couple because the film focuses entirely on the external hardships they have to face and the everyday interactions they share with the people they are currently forced to live with. Love is Strange is a quiet and slow paced drama that stands out for its strong lead performances and its tender and authentic portrayal of love.