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Love Is Strange Review

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After 40 years together, newlyweds Ben (Lithgow) and George (Molina) experience a reversal of fortune and are left homeless in New York, forced to seek help from their nearest and not always dearest. Separated, Ben goes into decline, while George desperately tries to put their life back together.

★★★★

When it comes to on-screen chemistry it’s unlikely any other star pairing of the year will top the absolute deliciousness of troupers John Lithgow and Alfred Molina, so at ease together in this bittersweet treat on relationships — lovers, family, friendships.

When cultured, witty Ben (Lithgow) and George (Molina) are finally able to legally wed, the occasion is an especially happy day shared with an affectionate circle of family and friends. But music teacher George is fired from his Catholic school when the fanfare around the nuptials proves too far-out for the bishop. Ben, an aged, ailing artist, isn’t earning, and their complicated co-op arrangements and investments fail them, so they are out on the street.

No matter how much you love someone, having them in your space, and your kitchen, is testing. Chatty Ben is soon driving his novelist niece (Marisa Tomei) wild as she struggles to write with him gabbing away in the room, while awkward, secretive teen Joey (Charlie Tahan) bewails his loss of privacy and meanly vents his resentments. More amusingly, George is crashing on the couch of exuberant gay cops (Cheyenne Jackson and Manny Perez) whose all-night parties and Game Of Thrones marathons do wonders for our image of the NYPD but take their toll on the job-seeking, apartment-hunting, Chopin-loving guest.

Lithgow is given to acting large, but he shows remarkable restraint in a gentle performance that is as much about feeling old, lonely and helpless as it is about relationships. In the deceptively simplest scenes, Molina beautifully conveys a rich emotional inner life. Ira Sachs and co-writer Mauricio Zacharias haven’t done anything flashy, but the dialogue and behaviour of the different generations are so well observed and the unhurried direction focussed so gracefully on eloquent moments, that the cumulative effect is profoundly moving. The conclusion is that love, joyous, demanding or painful, isn’t at all strange. It simply is.

Elevated from nice to beautifully memorable by wonderful performances and thoughtful direction of perfect small moments.

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