In this pointed and involving New York drama, the snap of realistic dialogue more than makes up for a fundamental flaw in the premise. It helps to have first-rate actors like John Lithgow and Alfred Molina in the focal roles, and filmmaker Ira Sachs has a wonderful eye for earthy rhythms of human interaction that continually reveal deeper truths everyone can identify with. So the way the film explores a long-term relationship is revelatory and important.
The film opens as Ben and George (Lithgow and Molina) finally get legally married after 39 years together. But when they return from their honeymoon, their happiness hits a bump: George is sacked from his job as a music teacher at a Catholic school because he's now considered openly gay. Unable to afford their mortgage, they sell their flat and take a huge loss due to fees. So now they are forced to live separately: Ben moves in with his workaholic nephew Elliot (Darren E. Burrows) and his wife Kate (Marisa Tomei), sharing a bunk bed with their surly teen son Joey (Charlie Tahan). Meanwhile, George takes the sofa of noisy party-boy neighbours Ted and Roberto (Cheyenne Jackson and Manny Perez). Neither situation is remotely ideal, but they try to make it work, knowing that it's temporary.
The problem is that none of this is actually necessary. They had much better options than this, so the continuing messiness feels like it could have been very easily avoided simply by making a few rational decisions rather than be pushed in one direction by an undercooked screenplay. On the other hand, the actors are more than up to the challenge, finding the most meaningful angles within every scene. Sachs gives his cast the space to bring these likeable people to life. Lithgow is terrific as the chatty Ben, who drives Kate crazy while creating tensions in their family. And Molina is wonderful as the more patient, open-minded George. Their chemistry together is sparky and realistic.
Continue reading: Love Is Strange Review
After living together for 39 years, Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) are able to get married to one another. As George works as a music teacher for a Catholic school, the news of his same-sex marriage causes him to lose his job, and with Ben receiving a pension, the couple are forced to live off the small amount of money. When they are forced to seek a place to live with their friends and family, they are forced to live separately with different families. In their new life, they discover the true meaning of love and friendship, and teach a little to those around them in the process.
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Ben and George have been together for four years and finally decide to get married. While their matrimony may have touched the hearts of their friends and family, the archdiocese soon hears about it and George is subsequently fired from his job as a teacher at the local catholic school. The pair can't afford to live in the area any longer with only Ben's pensions and George's profits from private piano lessons as income, and so they must sell their apartment and set out on a search for cheaper housing. However, the tough New York housing market means they are forced to stay with their separate families and friends. It's not the most ideal of situations for anyone; George and Ben are struggling to cope with their separation and neither are dealing with their strange new home environments.
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Director-cowriter Sachs takes an unusually intimate look at a 10-year relationship in this beautifully shot and performed New York drama. The film has been compared to 2011's British break-out hit Weekend, but only partly because it centres on a gay couple. What makes both films notable is the way they tackle serious issues in the context of a relationship, keeping the focus tightly on complex characters who behave like real people we can identify with.
The story starts in 1998 New York, as aspiring Danish documentary filmmaker Erik (Lindhardt) fails to overcome his loneliness by using chat-lines to meet random strangers for sex. Then he meets the lawyer Paul (Booth), and their encounter evolves into a relationship. Over the next decade, Paul is frustrated by Erik's casual approach to his slow-developing career, while Erik becomes increasingly worried about Paul's casual drug use. As this boils over into full-on addiction, Erik turns to his sister (Steen) and his close friend Claire (Nicholson) for help with an intervention. But are drugs the real problem? And even if Paul goes through rehab, can their relationship survive?
Intriguingly, Sachs never lets this turn into a drug-addiction drama, carefully exploring much deeper issues without ever being preachy about it. Everything is presented as matter-of-fact, just part of life, and even the addiction problem is only an obstacle for Erik and Paul to deal with in their life together. Both Lindhardt and Booth bring a stunning transparency to their roles, keeping the characters likeable even when they do awful things to each other. Since we see everything through Erik's eyes, Lindhardt's role is much beefier, and it's also infused with his European sense of humour.
Continue reading: Keep The Lights On Review
What's pleasurable about this film, and the way the story unfolds, is its elegant simplicity. No more than ten minutes into the movie, Sachs and his co-screenwriter Oren Moverman have skillfully limned each of the main characters' hopes and ambitions and set in motion the levers of conflict that drive the story forward. Harry wants to experience the type of romantic love that has long since vanished, if it ever existed, from his marriage with Pat (Patricia Clarkson), while she, for her part, longs for greater passion and the adolescent thrill of sex. Kay (Rachel McAdams), Harry's mistress, seeks true love for the second time after losing her husband in World War II, and Richard, a womanizing bachelor, hopes to discover the ability to form an emotional connection with a woman.
Continue reading: Married Life Review
As played by Dina Korzun, I didn't understand this woman character at all. She's closed off, remote, seems not to use the mind that is her own, and puts up with all sorts of horseshit from her boorish man, Memphis music producer Alan James (Rip Torn, who tears up the screen with his raging bull persona). She looks like a fashion model, a slender little slip of a thing dressed in wonderful clothes. We learn that she is originally from Russia, and has a three-year-old child. She appears somewhat bored with her wealthy lifestyle and mansion, and -- here's the thing... she's either completely inaccessible or she doesn't use the brains in her head.
Continue reading: Forty Shades Of Blue Review
The family drama, directed by Ira Sachs, claimed the top prize in the competition at the Utah festival.
Director Eugene Jarecki made it a double Sundance success for his family when his film WHY WE FIGHT claimed the festival's grand-jury prize for documentaries - his brother ANDREW's acclaimed CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS won the same award in 2003.
Continue reading: Forty Shades Of Blue Wins Big Prize At Sundance