MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Love Is Strange’ May Be The Best Film of 2014

Love Is Strange Review 2014

Film: Love Is Strange
Starring: John Lithgow, Alfred Molina
Directed by: Ira Sachs

I cannot remember the last time I felt as emotionally involved in a film as I was while watching Ira Sachs’ Love Is Strange. For 93 wonderful minutes the entire world outside the cinema faded into the grey and I was left with a brand new universe in which to thrive. It’s a world filled with problems, but held ever so firmly together by love that you want to exist within it despite whatever shortcomings may be present.

Ben and George have been together for 39 years when Love Is Strange begins, and it’s clear from the first time they appear on screen that their love for one another runs deep. They’re married within the first fifteen minutes of the film’s opening, but their happiness is short lived due to George losing his job at the local Catholic school. It seems the church was willing to look the other way while he and Ben lived together for so many years, but as soon as they decided to get married and take their love public people within the church began to talk. Our world may have come a long way towards accepting homosexuality, but in the eyes of the church it is still very much a sin, and as a result George is no longer welcomed as a teacher at the institution he called home for over a decade.

For many films, this would be the point where the story takes a turn for the political, but Love Is Strange concerns itself very little with the opinions of the outside world. This is not a film about the problems facing our culture in 2014, but rather a beautiful portrait of love in life’s golden years. The firing of George does not tear the newlyweds apart, but it does force them to sell their New York City apartment. They want to stay in the city, but with George out of work they need time to gather enough money to purchase a new home, which forces the couple to live separately with friends and family who have extra room. Ben lives with his nephew, who he has essentially raised as his own child, and George lives with a young gay couple whom he and Ben have known for years. It’s a pair of setups ripe with comedic and dramatic potential, which Sachs takes full advantage of throughout the film’s second and third acts.

There is no major climax or penultimate decision awaiting viewers in the latter half of Love Is Strange, but that likely will not come as much of a surprise to fans of Sachs’ previous work. His skill is derived from the ability to make the mundane feel important, which is what gives Love Is Strange such wonderful life. Not a scene passes without some line of dialogue or exchange of expressions tugging ever so slightly at your heartstrings. This in itself is a small triumph, but the film then takes its heartwarming structure a step further by using the collective emotional weight of these moments to earn cry-inducing sequences later in the story. The tears are not the result of a single action or phrase, but rather the culmination of everything you have witnessed. This, in my mind, is far more lifelike than most modern dramatic storytelling. Most people do not experience over the top decision making moments that test the strength of their relationships, but almost everyone goes through hard times that puts incredible amounts of stress on them and those in their life. That’s the kind of heartache found in Love Is Strange.

John Lithgow and Alfred Molina are flawless in their portrayals of Ben and George. Their onscreen chemistry is the most believable romance of 2014, which is what makes Love Is Strange so enchanting. You not only admire their relationship, but you long to one day find something similar in your own life. You realize that even though these two men have a slew of unrealized dreams, they never think much about what is missing or incomplete because the fact that they have each other is enough. As long as they can feel the warmth of the other at their side in the dead of the night then life is as good as it gets. This is an outlook the pair maintains throughout the film, even when things are at their bleakest, and it makes for a pair of incredibly compelling performances.

At the risk of giving away a title before the year is out, Love Is Strange may very well be the best film of 2014. It’s a simple story about life, love, and the way the world can sometimes feel like it’s working against us told with universal appeal. You will laugh, cry, and long to find a partner to grow old with, even if you don’t know where the two of you will end up. It’s everything Hollywood needs more of these days, and only a fool would make the mistake of not experiencing its charm.

GRADE: A

Review written byJames Shotwell

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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  • Bill Gannon

    I just saw the film today and agree completely with the reviewer! A sweet, funny, sad film about love. John Lithgow and Alfred Molina were just wonderful!

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