In a summer of movie romances, Love Is Strange is the one that cuts deepest. Without the usual bull and spackled-on sentiment, it hits you like a shot in the heart. Director Ira Sachs, who wrote the subtly nuanced script with Mauricio Zacharias, intuitively knows where attention must be paid.
George (Alfred Molina), a music teacher, and Ben (John Lithgow), an artist, have lived together in Manhattan for nearly 40 years. When state law finally allows them to marry, they do so happily among family and friends. But being legal gets George fired from his Catholic school, forcing them to sell their apartment. While foraging through the jungle of New York real estate, George moves downstairs with two gay cops (Cheyenne Jackson and Manny Perez). Ben squeezes into the Brooklyn apartment of a nephew (Darren Burrows), his work-at-home wife (Marisa Tomei, excellent), and their teen son (the extraordinary Charlie Tahan), who resists sharing his bunk bed with an old man who further cramps his privacy.
It’s a sitcom setup that Sachs (Forty Shades of Blue, Keep the Lights On) imbues with the kind of humor and humanity that resonates with the issues of love, sex, separation, aging and loss that define a life.
Love Is Strange is, above all, a triumph for Lithgow and Molina, two consummate actors who bring decades of experience to artful performances that are as emotionally expressive in silence as they are in words. Acting doesn’t get better than this. Want to know what love is? Watch Lithgow and Molina and learn.