What We’re Watching: ‘Love is Strange’

“Love is Strange”

★★★✰✰

Updated: Sept. 3, 2014 at 11:15 p.m.

While superhero movies and sci-fi thrillers have recently taken over the industry, sometimes you’d like some realism on the screen.

A scene from "Love is Strange." Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.
A scene from “Love is Strange.” Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

“Love is Strange” submerges the audience in the high-brow, art-loving world of Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina), who finally marry after almost 40 years as a couple. But not everyone is happy to hear that news.

George, who is a choir instructor at a Catholic school, is asked to leave his position, and the couple, now in financial ruin, decide to live separately until they can afford an apartment of their own.

The decision prompts Ben to live with his nephew Elliot (Darren E. Burrows), his wife Kate (Marisa Tomei) and their son Joey (Charlie Tahan). Meanwhile, George lives with friends Ted (Cheyenne Jackson) and Roberto (Manny Pérez), two gay policemen who often turn their small apartment into a raging club.

Director Ira Sachs adds comic relief to scenes with depictions of ordinary dilemmas: Ben is forced to share a bunk bed with young Joey, and while Ben constantly talks to Kate while she is writing, he complains when others do the same.

“I can’t really work if there’s someone else around,” Ben says to Kate ironically.

But beneath a comedic exterior, Sachs crafts a film with artistic depth. The film is based on three different phases of love – represented by Ben, Elliot and Joey – a theme that is subtly woven into the movie throughout yet retains a poignant influence on the viewer. Sometimes, though, the subtlety of “Love is Strange” muddles the concept and detracts from the message.

Interestingly, “Love is Strange” is a personal story for Sachs, who drew inspiration for many characters from people in his own life. He manages to turn the stories of past mentors and experiences into a linear depiction of love.

With New York City as a setting for the drama, characters depicted with careful attention to personality traits and an unexpected story that brings unique perspectives to love, “Love is Strange” is the perfect pick for some quiet contemplation.

Released: Aug. 29
Director: Ira Sachs (“Married Life” and “Forty Shades of Blue”)
Genre: Drama
Cast: John Lithgow (“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”), Alfred Molina (“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”), Marisa Tomei (“Crazy, Stupid, Love”), Charlie Tahan (“Charlie St. Cloud”)

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the character Ben complained that Kate constantly talked to him while he was writing. He actually complained to Kate that others had done that to him. We regret this error.

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