Director: Ira Sachs
Normalcy always follows great change. Not a return to the world before the change occurred, but an inevitable acceptance of whatever happened. It’s just human nature, we adapt. A new rule is put in place at work or school and although at first there are a few grumbles, everyone eventually begins working as if the new rule has always been. You buy something new for your house or room, for a while you can’t stop looking at it, and then gradually it becomes a part of your world as if it were always there. When something new comes into our lives, what always follows is a state of normalcy, because what else could possibly happen? So it is with marriage equality, a theme focused on by this film and relevant to modern American history. As contested a topic as it was, now that our country is moving toward completely equal rights for hetero- or homosexual couples, it becomes a fact that must be accepted, a truth that will become part of our daily lives. Love Is Strange is a film that exhibits how something so contested can become so normal, how a story can be told that mostly ignores what would have been taboo ten years ago, how a romance can be told from any angle and still just be about one thing; love.
Ben & George are a recently married couple. They’ve been together for almost 40 years, living together in New York City, but have been unable to make it “official” until now. After their wedding, they’re ready to settle down in their comfortable apartment surrounded by friends and live out the rest of their lives in peace. Ben is retired, now a painter, sometimes a singer, and loved dearly by his family. George is a music teacher, from London originally, a piano player, and a steadfast companion. The two men have been by each others’ side for decades now, have been inseparable, and are viewed by all who know them as the epitome of true love. But when the board of the Catholic school George works for finds out about his recent marriage, the quiet existence of this wonderful couple is about to become a lot more noisy.
With a job lost and money now tight, Ben & George are forced to sell their apartment and find a smaller one, not an easy task in New York. But temporarily there are some options. They aren’t without loved ones who are willing to house them, but they’ll have to separate in order to make it work. Just down the hall are Roberto & Ted, two gay cops who have been the best of friends to the older couple. Way out in Poughkeepsie is Mindy, the relative with the most space but the least accessibility. And then there’s Elliot & Kate, Ben’s nephew & his wife, who live in a nice apartment with their son Joey. They’re happy to take Ben in, but have no room for George, and are dealing with problems of their own, namely teenage-oriented. With no option a great one, one will have to be picked, separating this couple for the first time in years and forcing them to look outside themselves.
It really is amazing how far and how quickly the marriage equality movement has come in the last few years, and how the stigma of being gay is wearing off faster than opponents can think up new reasons to hate. Take this movie as a prime example of how normal it is now, how a love story featuring two older men can be no different than any other romance, how their being homosexual disappears in the background and the movie becomes about a committed couple going through a hard time. Credit director Ira Sachs for having the courage to tell a story without relying heavily on cliches or stereotypes, for allowing the sexuality of the characters to be a backdrop, not a focal point. I know there are still people that hold to the belief that homosexuality is wrong and that they won’t be changing their views any time soon. But a film like this shows how the majority feel, when mainstream actors can kiss and show affection, regardless of their own sexuality, and really, it’s not that big a deal.
Although, having said that, it’s still an impressive performance from Lithgow and from Molina, playing lovers who are beyond comfortable with each other, men who have a long history together, and who see themselves no differently than any other pair in the autumn of their lives. Never did it feel weird to see them together, it always seemed natural and automatic, which speaks even more to the terrific talent possessed by the duo. Lithgow, specifically, has really come on in the latter part of his career, moving far past the goofy guy who was three rocks from the sun. The relationship between Ben & George made the movie, with everything else taking on a supportive role. The side actors, including Marisa Tomei, who I love, were all fine but not stand out, playing pieces in the lives of these two men but not playing pivotal parts. The story was realistic, sad, hopeful, and believable, making Love Is Strange a film with feeling, if not a perfectly crafted work of art.
Video – With an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 1080p high definition, the video is astounding. Each scene is immensely clear, with a crisp visual that shows off every capability of the Blu-ray disc. And the color is the most impressive part of the video, for not only was it well-used, but it popped in a way that only high definition can achieve. The picture quality of this film was noticeably excellent, with time taken to make ever shot sparkle, despite the lack of any kind of action.
Audio – There are many audio options of the Blu-ray disc. The film can be watched with either English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio or English Audio Descriptive Track 5.1 Dolby Digital. Also, subtitles can be used, either English, English SDH, or French. The audio is mastered in high definition and comes across with a clarity that supports its claim. The use of music, mainly classical, was a benefit to the film, although there were times it seemed a little unbalanced, playing louder than the dialogue in a distracting manner.
Extras – Many extras can be found on this disc. The film can be viewed with commentary from John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, and Ira Sachs. What Is Love is a making-of section, bringing the process behind Love Is Strange to life. There is a Q&A from the L.A. Film Festival with John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, Cheyenne Jackson, and Ira Sachs. And lastly, there are seven trailers: Love Is Strange, Land Ho!, The Notebook, Whiplash, Foxcatcher, Pride, and Mr. Turner.
Recommended. A movie can be an example of our times, and Love Is Strange definitely fits that description. It’s a love story through and through, a tale of a romance that has stood the test of time, and just happens to be between two men. That fact is secondary to the love exhibited here, making a statement by staying silent, and showing just how far we’ve come in our understanding of each other. As a film, it exhibits great acting, a pleasant story, and some amazing visuals. It’s a short film at 90 minutes, won’t floor you in any way, but delivers a feeling of peace that not every film can muster. The video is very strong, the audio great as well, and there are quite a few extras on the Blu-ray disc. Watch this film without hesitation and without unreachable expectations.
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Content
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Video
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Extras
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Replay