FilmReview

Review: John Lithgow and Alfred Molina Show Us How ‘Love Is Strange’

James Canellos ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Alfred Molina and John Lithgow in Love Is Strange. Photo Credit: Jeong Park/Sony Pictures Classics.
Alfred Molina and John Lithgow in Love Is Strange. Photo Credit: Jeong Park/Sony Pictures Classics.

Love Is Strange: what a title. Not that it’s an inappropriate title, love makes no sense to anybody except a really good therapist, it’s just something we do. Independent filmmaker Ira Sachs’ beautifully titled film examines the complicated relationship that newlyweds George (Alfred Molina) and Ben (John Lithgow) are having with New York City real estate, the Catholic church, and their friends.

Their connection is tested after George and Ben get married after being with each other for 39 years. Soon after the couple are wed, George is fired after 12 years working as a Catholic school’s music teacher (despite the fact that everyone had already known about his personal life). The sudden layoff forces George and Ben to sell their beloved apartment and move in with friends and family separately until they can manage to find a new place to call home.

John Lithgow and Charlie Tahan in Love Is Strange. Photo Credit: Jeong Park/Sony Pictures Classics.
John Lithgow and Charlie Tahan in Love Is Strange. Photo Credit: Jeong Park/Sony Pictures Classics.

Separation anxiety begins to run its course as George moves in with their neighbors (Cheyenne Jackson and Manny Perez) who have guests coming in and out like a revolving door. Ben on the other hand has to keep up with the silence of his emotionally distant nephew Elliot (Darren E. Burrows), his novelist wife Kate (Marisa Tomei) and their precocious son Joey (Charlie Tahan). As Ben notes to George at one point, “when you live with people, you know them better then you care to.”

That’s what makes George and Ben’s relationship so refreshing, after all this time together they are still so infatuated and intrigued with each other. There is no illness or insecurity that’s in the way of their love. Their affection for each other is never questioned or forced to be challenged, only strengthened by their need to find a new apartment. Director and co-writer Sachs establishes this unbiased love as a theme of the film. Despite the lack of justice in George being fired, he asks parents in a beautiful voice over to use this experience as an example of how to improve future generations and not damper the beliefs of their religion. Just as the men’s dedication to one another is unfazed so is George’s relationship with the church. Instead of being tainted by the mistreatment he wants to use it to make his pupils stronger.

Alfred Molina in Love Is Strange. Photo Credit: Jeong Park/Sony Pictures Classics.
Alfred Molina in Love Is Strange. Photo Credit: Jeong Park/Sony Pictures Classics.

The tone of the film shifts quite often in a way that’s so carefully controlled by Sachs and co-writer Mauricio Zacharias. Like the colors of Ben’s unappreciated paintings, the texture of this film quickly changes from an optimistic yellow to an uncertain mixture of teal and brown. Such as Ben’s work, Sachs never tries to impress his audience with a tearjerker climax, instead he simply presents these men for who they are and how they’ll always behave with each other.

Molina and Lithgow still manage to show so many different layers of warmth and serenity after over 40 years of acting. Sachs establishes himself as the perfect fly on the wall for narrative filmmaking. The trio understand that similar to filmmaking, love can sometimes make no sense, but when you have the right people in the right room at the right time there is nothing strange about it.

Overall Grade: A

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