Ira Sachs’ entrancing “Love Is Strange” begins with a wedding — one that was a long time coming. New Yorkers Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) have been together 39 years; now, finally, they are able to be married. The film’s early scenes, on their wedding day, show us the wordless result of loving decades together; they seem, as they dress and hunt for their glasses and worry about getting their good clothes sweaty while looking for a cab, as if neither is complete without the other.
But life soon intervenes to separate Ben and George — not for lack of love, but of real estate. George (in a development that hints of a recent Northwest news story) loses his music-teacher job at a Catholic school because of his marriage, and the men must sell their Manhattan apartment to make ends meet. They’re not broke, but they can’t find an affordable place in the city, nor do any of their friends and family have room to temporarily house the couple. Though it seems implausible that there’d be no other solution, the men reluctantly agree to live apart temporarily: Ben with his nephew’s family; George bunking on the couch with some friendly neighbors.
With delicate piano music guiding us through the story, we watch as Ben and George experience that unique awkwardness of how, as Ben says, “when you’re living with people, you know them better than you care to.” And we realize, midway through, how much we’ve come to care for this couple. Lithgow and Molina barely seem to need words; their physical ease and quiet gazes convey all we need to know. Sachs tells the story with artful economy — one late, crucial plot point happens without our seeing it — and ends it with an achingly lovely image, caught in golden sunlight. Love strikes, like magic; leaving those in its wake forever changed.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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