With the Irish people recently voting to legalise same-sex marriage in their country, it seemed the right time to review a film about one such relationship. LOVE IS STRANGE premiered in January 2014 at the Sundance Film Festival and has been doing the festival circuit pretty much non-stop ever since. It had its local premiere at last year’s Hong Kong Lesbian & Gay Film Festival.
LOVE IS STRANGE is definitely not your typical gay film. Ben and George are not young, they don’t seem to have seen the inside of gym in quite a while, they don’t hang out in bars or clubs, … they pretty much don’t adhere to any other stereotype we may have of gay men. Played by veteran actors John Lithgow and Alfred Molina, respectively, Ben and George seem like everyday people. Ben is a retired artist; George teaches music at a Catholic school in New York. After nearly 40 years together, they finally get married in an intimate ceremony with their family and friends on hand to offer their support and love. The morning of their big day seems like every other day. They fuss, they fret, they rush and they comfort. Ben and George’s love seems anything but strange.
The traditional vows of “for better or worse” are put to the test, though, soon after their wedding day when George loses his job. His school’s archdiocese had closed their eyes to his sexual orientation all these years but getting married crossed their line. Now unable to meet the mortgage payments on their co-op apartment, the men must sell it and temporary live apart until they can find a new home that they can afford. Ben moves in with his nephew’s family in Brooklyn. George stays in the city, moving one floor down to sleep on the sofa belonging to two gay cops. Physical separation, the stress of losing a job, an income and a home, and having to bunk with family and friends at an advanced age puts a lot of strain on the men. As Ben says, “When you live with people, you know them better than you care to.” Fortunately, their love, dedication and commitment to each other hold them together.
LOVE IS STRANGE is not preachy save for one voiceover toward the end of the film where George tells the parents of his former students that he hopes they will encourage their children to discover who they are and who they can be. However, watching Ben and George, one can’t help but notice that love, compassion, understanding and humour in moments of adversity are traits that are not the exclusive domain of heterosexuals.
LOVE IS STRANGE is now available on DVD and digital download.
Listen to the review online on Radio 4. (Click on the link. Select Part 2 and slide the time bar over to 32:15.)
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