Love is Strange (film)

Love is Strange (Directed by Ira Sachs)/2014

Love is Strange is a gentle movie with a tinge of sadness, not unlike the Chopin nocturnes that carry its soundtrack. It's centered on a recently married middle-aged gay couple, but more generally explores the various kinds of love that make up the most significant parts of our lives and the strange dynamics that often play out within them. It is also a movie that normalizes homosexual marriage due to displaying the more mundane aspects and frustrations that the married couple face. The commentary is not overly cynical or simplistic, and shows a humanity that tries, often fails, but mostly does its best to treat others with respect and affection.

Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) are a gay couple that have been together for 39 years. The movie opens with them getting married and celebrating with family and close friends in their New York apartment. We are given the impression that their family is fully accepting of the couple and care about them greatly.

Shortly after the wedding, George is asked to leave his job at the Catholic school where he teaches music. The school makes their teachers sign contracts in which they promise to live in accordance with certain religious rules. While George’s homosexuality and his openly gay relationship are accepted by the religious authorities, the marriage oversteps the unwritten boundaries and leads to his dismissal from the role. I would like to say that at this point Love is Strange could be criticized for falling into a overly simplistic caricature of the relationship between the Christian church and homosexuality; however, sadly, I do not think this would be a fair criticism of the movie due to the recent abuses of the Church in this area.

When George loses his job he and Ben are forced to sell their apartment and move in with friends and family. The movie explores how the everyday difficulties of life (money, getting accommodation, and family interactions) provide challenges for people of all genders and sexuality. Difficulties are shown to challenge the concepts of what people thought their loves to be. Love is shown to involve joy in times of peace and overcoming frustration and anger in times of difficulty.

We are exposed to George and Ben's struggles living with their families and friends who previously played a more distant role in their lives. The movie explores how even a genuine love and affection can be challenged by a series of seemingly insignificant issues that plague people in domestic living situations: people talking while you are trying to work; parties when you are tired or trying to sleep; or just other people being there when all you want is a quiet moment.

To reflect the points made above, the camera is often poised from a far, quietly observing in a concerned way being respectful of the characters privacy, and the music is warm yet slightly sad. The gently inquisitive mood of this movie is important as it explores issues that could easily be presented too strongly: homosexual relationships and marriage; an adolescent struggling with his identify; the difficulties of living with family that were once loved from afar; and the relationship between the Church and homosexuality.

Love is Strange is a movie that displays some of the sadder aspects of love and relationships, but shows these aspects emerging out of the everyday frustrations of human life. It is a tender presentation of a group of people whose love is tested and fully revealed for what it fundamentally is: a commitment that is not always perfect or positive but mostly acts out of concern for the loved one.


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