Ira Sach’s begins and ends his feature with the music of Frederic Chopin, it’s an exquisite piece of music and sets the tone for the film.
Love is Strange is a New York story about George and Ben played by Molina and Lithgow who decide to get married. George is a music teacher in a catholic school and Ben is an artist. They have been together for approximately forty years, they are comfortable, living in a spacious apartment in Manhattan, then suddenly George is sacked from his job as a music teacher at the Saint Grace Academy. The ageless John Corbett as the Head Priest represents the hypocrisy of the catholic church. “it’s important that you don’t question your faith” George a catholic is told.
Suddenly their lives are in free-fall, close family and friends come on board to support what at first appears to be a temporary arrangement. The apartment with a mortgage and taxes attached is sold for a massive profit of 17,500 the couple begin looking for a new apartment to live in. This becomes progressively more problematic in a competitive market and a strict budget. Seventy-one year old Ben goes to live with his nephew Elliot and his writer wife Kate (Tomei). He sleeps on a bunk bed shared with the couples moody teenage son Joey (Charlie Tahan) whilst George stays with gay friends in the downstairs apartment, who happen to be cops and seem to have a party ever second night.
Tensions begin to rise, as the impositions of time and personal space takeover. A conversation between the chatty Ben and the frustrated Kate ends when he tells the exasperated writer, “I can’t really work if there is someone else around,” which signifies the underlying tensions within this claustrophobic space.
The film is simply shot, little camera flourishes are on display, shot largely inside the homes and the streets of Manhattan Sachs creates a rich tapestry of complex human characters, his camera lingers stationary on his performers, for long periods to ensure he captures what is going on inside their heads. The strength of the film is in the script and performances. It will be hard to find a more sharply observed and well written script this year. Molina and Lithgow are wonderful together, see their duet “You’ve got what it takes” but the whole ensemble are simply terrific, Charlie Tahan as Joey is a young actor to watch.