Monday 25 September 2017

Love Is Strange - 'artful meditation on loss and love'

AFFECTING: Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow
AFFECTING: Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow

Padraic McKiernan

That's the thing about a match made in heaven. Fate often conspires to chart a course that involves detours to destinations that could double as a living hell. It certainly proves to be the case in director Ira Sachs artful meditation on loss and love, Love is Strange.

Set in New York, this languid yet engaging piece begins on the wedding day of a cultured gay couple, Ben and George, a captivating John Lithgow and Alfred Molina. Going by the post-nuptial tributes, it's clear these two have been an enduring source of genuine affection, but the sincerity of those tributes is about to be tested.

Ben is a successful painter but George is a music teacher in a local Catholic school and his newly married status means he's about to fall foul of Catholic teaching on gay marriage. We learn that George was aware that his signature on a contract agreeing to abide by Catholic teaching might have negative ramifications but he decided to go ahead with the ceremony. The unfortunate upshot is that he loses his job.

Their reduced income means they can no longer afford their rent and are both obliged to rely on the kindness of family members for the provision of temporary accommodation. For reasons to do with hell being other people, it doesn't end well. Ben is reduced to sharing a bunk-bed with his nephew's son in a cramped apartment while George gets a couch in another apartment that could double as Party Central. Poignant and bittersweet drama ensues.

If you can overlook the opportunistic church-bashing that fuels the narrative there is much to like about this affecting piece. Long-time friends, Lithgow and Molina enjoy terrific screen chemistry while Sachs's hypnotic visual flair results in an overall experience that is understated yet strangely powerful.

Cert 15A

Sunday Independent

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