~Downstairs at the Savoy~
Love is Strange
Rated R; 98 minutes
Joe McGovern, Entertainment Weekly (excerpted)
George (Alfred Molina) and Ben (John Lithgow) have finally tied the knot after 39 years as a couple, but with consequences. George is let go from his job as a music teacher at a Catholic school for violating the moral code (i.e., marrying a man), and he and Ben are forced to sell their Manhattan apartment and bunk with separate friends before they can reunite.
Indie filmmaker Ira Sachs (Forty Shades of Blue, Keep the Lights On) takes an impeccably balanced approach to the film. His ironic title refers to all tough relationships, including the one that the characters have with New York City. In how it mirrors life's joys and disappointments, and charges a minimum of $1,500 per month for the privilege, the city is as much a leading player here as Molina and Lithgow — both of whom, in their many decades as actors, have rarely been as beguiling or moving on screen.
The story is elusive, with unexpected leaps in time but Love Is Strange is hardly plotless. The final act is punctuated by a major event, yet Sachs is too smart a director to dwell on it. Instead he aims away from the obvious and toward a poignant wordless denouement involving Ben's 15-year-old great-nephew (the revelatory Charlie Tahan). It's one final nuanced decision in a movie loaded with them. Sachs, Molina, and Lithgow have given adult moviegoers a perfect piece of summer counter-programming — a warm, humane, resplendent romance to savor while our days are still long.