Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) have been living together in New York City for 39 years and decide it’s time to get married. Unfortunately, as a result George immediately loses his job as a music teacher in a Catholic school, where everyone knew he was gay and living with Ben but that was okay as long as George didn’t make the relationship ‘official’ and therefore contrary to the employment guidelines. With the sudden drop in income, Ben and George decide to sell their apartment and temporarily split up so they can move in with others (Ben with his nephew’s family; George to a friend’s apartment). This all happens in the first five minutes or so. Many complications and frustrations ensue.
But Love is Strange is not about the trials of being an older gay couple (though it’s about that too, in a normalizing way) as much as it is about everyday ordinary family life in contemporary New York City. It’s a beautiful, simple honest film with lots to say about love, about family, about aging and about not being afraid to be true to yourself and others (e.g. the wrongness of being unable to express your true thoughts on same-sex relationships and sexual orientation because your employer forces its employees to keep a lid on the public sharing of such thoughts).
Lithgow and Molina are wonderful as Ben and George. Other production values are solid (with Ira Sachs at the helm), with a particularly effective scene near the end which I won’t describe. I again wished for more of an emotional connection and a bit more zip to the story. But, for hopefully the last time, I will say that in a different year, Love is Strange could have made my top ten. Not in 2014. A very solid ***+. My mug is up.