Saturday movie review: Love Is Strange

In the film LOVE IS STRANGE, the filmmakers, writers, and actors show that love is indeed strange. And beautiful and confusing and elusive and challenging. Whether between partners, parents and children, family, friends, and friends who feel like family, love is all of that and more. LOVE IS STRANGE hits on all of that, depicting the delicate dance maneuvering through such connections, regardless of age, gender, or sexual preference.

love is strange movie

In LOVE IS STRANGE—which is out on Blu-ray, DVD, and streaming—Alfred Molina and John Lithgow star as Manhattanites George and Ben, longtime partners who finally marry after thirty-nine years together. The marriage results in George (Molina) getting the boot from the Catholic school where he's a respected, inspirational music teacher.

Knowing Ben's (Lithgow) pension isn't enough income for them to continue living in the beloved apartment where they've resided for more than 25 years, George and Ben turn to friends and family for a spot to live while they get on their feet and find a new home. No one has the space for both, so the couple splits up, with George living with partying friends and Ben living with his nephew's family (Marisa Tomei starring as Kate, the nephew's wife). The best-we-can-do-for-now arrangement turns out to be not so ideal for anyone.

Molina and Lithgow turn in spectacularly touching performances. The tenderness between the two illustrates the type of relationship that keeps some longtime couples together despite odds and differences, the kind of marriage newlyweds hope to achieve. Yet there are the jibs and jabs that come with the territory, which keeps the film honest and free of sickeningly saccharine—and unreal—moments.

Marisa Tomei as Kate is lovely as always, and I especially enjoyed seeing her playing someone struggling with the mundane and often unnerving moments moms face while juggling a career, an uninvolved husband and a teen. Oh, and while facing the challenge of hosting a beloved houseguest who has overstayed his welcome. One of the scenes I found most humorous and resonant was when Kate attempted to work on her book yet Uncle Ben was (unwittingly) determined to engage in her in conversation. Been there, done that, and Tomei's work perfectly mirrored the frustration.

The strain on the couple during the separation touched my heart. One scene, in particular: when George can't take it any longer, leaves his host's home, and walks through the rain to see Ben, to cry on his shoulder, literally. Molina and Lithgow provide a powerful, painful moment I won't soon forget.

LOVE IS STRANGE was lauded at numerous festivals upon its release, including Sundance, Tribeca, Berlin, and Los Angeles. I second the kudos. It's a sweet film with a tender story and powerful performances.

Lithgow and Molina discuss the film with a Wall Street Journal reporter during last year's Sundance Film Festival:


LOVE IS STRANGE (rated R for language) was released theatrically in 2014 and is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and streaming. Find out more on the film's official website.