Love is beautiful, but it also gets ugly. It makes things easier, but it’s tough and requires work. Most of the time, it’s all of these things, and that’s what makes it weird. Love is definitely strange, and few movies say it better than director Ira Sachs’s (“Keep the Lights On”) latest film.

Love is Strange

Michigan Theater
Sony Classic Pictures

The movie takes a look at love through the life of a recently married same-sex couple, Ben (John Lithgow, “This is 40”) and George (Alfred Molina, “The Normal Heart”) and the struggles they go through when George loses his job at a local Christian school after their marriage. They are forced to rely on the support of their friends and close family and go through a journey that defines them and the bond they share.

The wonderful thing about this movie is that it’s very real, in the sense that it deals with issues that actually occur in the lives of ordinary people. Budget constraints, family tensions and relationship pressures are dealt with without the unnecessary melodrama that usually comes along with romantic movies in the West. The movie gets down to the things that affect people going through a difficult time in their relationship and presents them in a manner that seems relatable, even to an audience that might belong to a different generation.

Because of the plot’s relative simplicity , it’s easier to appreciate the acting of the entire cast. Sometimes, acting is not so much “doing” as it is “being,” and the lead pair takes on this mantle in a beautiful, powerful way. Lithgow and Molina turn in natural and unrestrained performances, and the way one plays off the other is a lesson in on-screen chemistry. The actions of every character, lead and supporting, have an almost palpable effect on the others, and it’s great to see a ripple effect taking place every time multiple characters are involved in a scene. The film also delivers a strong, poignant message about love — one that’s difficult to explain but easy to feel. It’s the ineffability of the emotion that the film oozes that makes it special, but at times, it’s also its downfall.

Though few and far between, some events in the film are understated to an ambitious degree. Not much is made clear, and at times the viewer is left wondering about the actual significance of what has just been said or happened. It’s not a hard movie to follow, it’s just that some important nuances may be lost on viewers. Although not much happens, it’s difficult to make sense of all the things that do and that’s what makes it a strange movie to watch.

Overall, the wonderful acting and the simplistic, splendid storytelling keep the film buoyant, and the subtle tone of humor makes it enjoyable. The running time of 94 minutes is perfect, as it ends up being soft and delicate in its handling, but powerful in its message.

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