On Saturdays night, television is usually very bad, full of gossip programs, summaries of the most important news of the week that are very boring if you have seen them during the previous days and naked things, among others crazy and nonsense TV programmes. The best thing is, then, to find a movie that is worthwhile, and last Saturday I found it: a 2014 one hour and 30 minutes French movie called Love Is strange. I started to see it because one of its co-stars is Alfred Molina, whom I recently met at the West End on the day of the premiere of a play in which he is in, Red.
From the first moments we see them together, waking up, taking a shower and dressing in the Manhattan apartment they have shared for decades, it is clear that Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) are the old married couple. They know each other very well and the peculiarities of the other have been adapted. The state law, in the end, has taken into account the reality of their relationship: the first scenes are the strange love of Ira Sachs and is solemnised with a wedding followed by a relaxed and lively party at home. But the happiness of the couple is interrupted by the unexpected and surprising intolerance. George loses his job at the Catholic school where he works and Ben is already retired. The loss of George's income means that they can no longer pay for their mortgage and that is why they have to trust their family: Ben moves to the Brooklyn apartment where his nephew Elliot (Darren Burrows) lives with his wife , Kate (Marisa Tomei), and their teenage son, Joey (Charlie Tahan). George sleeps on the couch of his ex-neighbors Ted (Cheyenne Jackson) and Roberto (Manny Perez).
Lithgow and Molina: seasoned and subtle actors
One of the strengths of this wise and charming movie is that it does not accept any response. The story of George and Ben seems to have been ripped from a field of narrative possibilities; an interesting movie could have been made about each and every one of the characters. Love Is Strange is the fifth of Sachs as director. The strangeness here may be less related to the affection that links the central couple with the ties of kinship and the friendship between them and the rest of the characters.
Lithgow and Molina, seasoned and subtle actors, beautifully capture the little pleasures and little irritations of Ben and George and also their pride of having survived together for a long time.
Sachs, who wrote the script with Mauricio Zacharias, occasionally takes a discreet look at the history of homosexuals in New York, a complicated chronicle of tragedy, resistance, struggle and fun. But this story nevertheless feels implicit in all the frames, infusing what could otherwise be an emotional anecdote about real estate problems.
The impact of the final scenes –tears are highly probable– comes from the curiosity and all the privacy accumulated during the film. When the movie is over, one feels that the characters are our friends.