Wendy Squires, invariably in her columns, strikes a chord with me. She did it again this week in her latest – this time it was her way with words on fruit and veg. She’s not talking so much about the sleek, succulent examples we have for the taking on the supermarket shelves of the Big Two, which, once bought home, more often than not, soon start to shrivel. No, she’s pontificating on the ones overlooked – those thrown on the scrap heap, left to rot or ploughed back into the farmers’ fields. Such wastage with so much of the world hungry! Now one of the Two has seen the light and is offering imperfection at a reduced price. Woolies is following the trend in the UK, championed by Jamie Oliver, that has gone gangbusters there – let’s hope it does here. Squires not only likened these second grade carrots and apples to her own physical imperfections, but also to Ronnie and Jean, a Canadian couple she met in an Auckland hotel – an older pair living their dream before it all becomes too late.
Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) are gay, still in love after decades together, but with age starting to become an impediment – neither are as beautiful as they once were. But they also decide to live the dream too. Unlike our own country with its Dark Ages politicians, more and more US states are freeing up repressive laws and allowing same sex couples to marry. Our two imperfects decide to similarly formally commit. Soon their happiness turns sour when, for George, this decision is crossing the line for his employer. He’s a teacher of music in a school and although they have known about his sexual orientation, openly marrying is not favoured by the Catholic Church and he is immediately dismissed. This causes a financial crisis for the duo and they are forced to give up their Manhattan apartment. For a while it seems, until fortunes change, the only alternative is couch surfing with family and friends. They both struggle to cope with apartness, their hosts struggle to cope with each of them.
Director Ira Sachs produces for us a fine film that has as much to do about ageing and the fragility of life as it does about gaydom and attitudes towards it. It is an offering of muted pace and muted tones, but the performances from the two leads are brave, heartfelt and nuanced – as we would expect from these two seasoned thesps. It’s not played for the appearance of hankies and tissues, even when one of the pair doesn’t make it through to that change of fortune. The production has garnered gongs world wide for what the New York Daily News describes as its ‘…thoughtful, intelligent reserve.’ I couldn’t put it better.
As well as Lithgow and Molina, for me the other stand-out performance was from young Charlie Tahan as Joey, the put upon teen who is forced to share his confined bedroom with his gay great-uncle Ben. The lad understandably resents the intrusion and all sorts of friction ensues. But in the development of a positive relationship between the two, as well as Joey’s struggles to develop relationships of his own, we have one of this movie’s true joys.
Yes George and Ben, along with Ronnie and Jean, as well as undoubtedly yours truly, are of an age where, as imperfections increase and we generally fade from view to join the plethora of similarly invisible baby-boomers, there are still films such as this and increasingly many others – cite the ‘Exotic Marigold Hotel’ franchise. It all serves to remind the rest that old people, like disfigured fruit and vegetables, still have some worth.
Official trailer for ‘Love is Strange’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdfA5Ff5e78