Lovely, this. A story not a million miles away from Make Way for Tomorrow (1937), it’s a thoroughly modern version. Old gay couple, Ben and George, have been together for decades. One a music teacher, the other an artist, they marry in scenes of proper joy, friendliness and familiness, before the hypocrisy of the pious world intervenes and they find, from the inside out, that Love is Strange.
It’s a gentle film, triggered by the Catholic School George has worked for since God knows when, sacking him for getting married. It’s made the everybody-knows-it secret of his sexuality too obvious for the pious and understanding clergy, the all-loving God and presumably the conservative parents. We don’t hear their response to the lovely goodbye letter that a voiceover from George makes soulful: don’t let the kids take the sacking as a sign that they should hide who they are lest it gets them in trouble. No point of superiority, here, just an accepting, almost casual sadness.
The impact of losing the job means the goodly old folk have to call on friends and family to put them up whilst they sell their 20-year flat, now unaffordable. George is put up by neighbours, a couple of cops with a nightlife set to exhaust the man who desperately needs to sleep on their sofa. Ben goes to live with his nephew (Darren E. Burrow giving off long-haired, job-first, possibly lover-first efficiency), his wife (Marisa Tomei, giving off frustration at this gentle intrusion into her writer’s silence), and their secretive teenager (Charlie Tahan being grumpy and inaccessible). Ben and the boy share a bunk and there’s a bit of smart family support going on.
The film ambles, but you won’t mind. It isn’t about passion, particularly. Nor is it about the desperate endings of relationships. It is mid-love, with love still in place, filled with humour, kindness, deep, deep knowledge, and the angst of familiarity intruded upon by being cast to the winds – the phone, meals and moments the only way back for this old couple desperate just to cuddle up together and share hugs and kisses.
It made me sad in places, what with the honest quiet of a mature relationship being so beautifully presented. Old Jack here felt Mrs Jack’s absence more than ever. Especially in the gently played moment George is told to get a cardio check…
The entire cast do a lovely job. Their naturalism is unnoticeable, so beguiling is the story. Ben is played by Alfred Molina, who weeps at the Chopin that twinkles through the soundtrack and the lessons he teaches. You can feel the longing throughout. George is the more puckish John Lithgow, who the film is marginally more interested in, given his presence in his nephew’s house is as a totem revealing their unspoken conflicts. Well, until they’re spoken. All rather peacefully domestic, which, it has to be said, left me wanting a smidge more incident.
A no-sex, no-violence, much-love film that speaks of the value and pains of mature love got made. And that’s an insanely lovely thing.
Good film. Give it a go.