Love Is Strange review: a same sex marriage torn apart

Love is Strange
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Director: Ira Sachs
Cert: 15A
Genre: Drama
Starring: Alfred Molina, John Lithgow, Marisa Tomei, Charlie Tahan, Darren Burrows, Eric Tabach
Running Time: 1 hr 34 mins

Artist Ben (John Lithgow) and his music-teacher partner of nearly four decades, George (Alfred Molina), get married in an elegant, intimate ceremony. The toasts, like the friends and family who propose them, are warm and sophisticated. The wine flows. The piano tinkles. The lasagne is a hit.

Sadly, snapshots from the occasion are brought to the attention of the archbishop, and George is promptly fired from his teaching job at at a Catholic academy, leaving the ageing couple with little option but to sell their beautifully appointed apartment.

It gets worse: George and Ben must take lodgings where they may. George winds up on the couch of his party-hard gay cop neighbours; Ben takes up residence on the bottom bunk of his nephew’s adolescent son, Joey (Charlie Tahan). The teenager is none too amused, particularly when Ben starts using his pal as a subject.

Joey’s novelist mother (Marisa Tomei) also finds her patience wearing thin around the older houseguest. She bristles when Ben puts on the kettle for tea. His gentle banter is equally unwelcome. Domestic strife seems unavoidable.


We might have had to cancel Valentine's Day altogether if our only heart-themed viewing option was the slap-happy Fifty Shades of Grey. Luckily, we have Ira Sachs'sold-fashioned romantic weepie to fall back on. Love Is Strange is a kind of gay Tokyo Story, every bit as life- affirming and heart-breaking.

Two Chopin nocturnes take centre stage. That’s an appropriate accompaniment for Sachs’s fined-honed script, which displays a keen understanding of how the simple act of moving in can make even the coolest uncle seem unbearable.

Lithgow and Molina are superbly understated as the beleaguered newlyweds. The younger cast and characters, particularly Tahan’s sulky teen and Tomei’s brittle hostess, prove just as good as their veteran colleagues.

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic