Film Review: Love Is Strange

I remember hearing nothing but good things about Love Is Strange. I even vaguely recall that it was released at around the time as another, more box office, love story and in the same way that The Duke of Burgundy was highlighted above 50 Shades Of Grey as being the better dominance movie, Love Is Strange was lauded as the more amorous tale. Even though for the life of me I cannot remember the other film in the equation.

So when Love Is Strange appeared on Curzon’s Home Cinema service memories were relit and watching the trailer it looked to be a clever and interesting idea with themes and discussions of bigotry, love and romance all interlinked. It didn’t seem to be a risk. I was expecting a deep, thought provoking piece of narrative film making. But I was wrong, I was very wrong.

John Lithgow - Love Is Strange

Instead I simply watched a turgid and reclusive story that never felt anything other than cold and unwelcoming. I sat there watching it wondering firstly, what exactly it is about and secondly, if it would then ever make that point. Truly nothing happens. And nothing feels like it ever will happen. The entire film is dyed with this defeatist self deprecating void. What little events the plot creates to try and drive the story forward appear completely unconnected from each other and also so shallow in future description that you don’t understand them anyway. You can visually make out what’s going on but exactly why is anybody’s guess.

Even worse than a disjointed and quiet plot is the fact that time appears to have died in the film. It is so slow that it just increases the volume of the silence that dominates the film. It’s route feels static because it lacks any sense of movement or pace and even the natural passing of time feels lethargic. It’s not a long film, only 90 minutes, but it felt like it was taking nothing more than one long self deprecating sigh and then drawing it out even further. By the end, I was just praying for its demise. I just wanted it to finished, and in it’s closing moments a few fade to black scenes of reflection rather than end, felt painful and tormenting.

As with my vague memories of critical greatness, I also remember John Lithgow being praised for his leading role. But honestly, I hated him more than any other character. He just came across as a slow, confused and “in need of care” old man. I think he’s meant to represent a man who is lost without his love and the routine of life as a couple, but he looked more like the old grandparent, borrowed from the care home and confused as to why there weren’t any biscuits on the beach. I half expected him to place the TV remote in the fridge and pick up the phone to change the channel. I ended up feeling nothing but complete pity towards him because I felt he became this selfish, dependant leech on those around him.

John Lithgow, Darren E. Burrows &Charlie Tahan - Love Is Strange

And of those around him, none fair much better. Alfred Molina as Lithgow’s husband just appeared to be removed and dead pan and uninviting. I think he’s meant to be straight and serious, but he felt starched and out of place. I just couldn’t imagine him ever laughing, or even being fun to be around. I will admit that preferred him to Lithgow because he felt less needy and more independent, but that’s still not enough. On the plus side, Marisa Tomei isn’t actually too bad viewed individually, you so slightly feel her struggle,  but she suffers from the fact that she’s surrounded by a family that look impossibly unrelated. They just don’t feel real. Darren E. Burrows, especially, just fails to convince that he is actually a living person and the family dynamic he creates when combined with Tomei, Lithgow or Charlie Tahan as his son, doesn’t fit the visual tone of what little story they are attempting to convey.

My biggest problem with Love Is Strange though is the fact that it just doesn’t feel romantic. And as a love story, it should. It’s not anti-love, it’s not the reverse tale or a portrayal of the “real life” elements of relationships. You can sense that it wants to show how love binds people together and, when the material things in life are disturbed the emotional side takes over, but it misses the target so badly. It just lacks any warmth between the characters to convince you of that. Times when the emotions should really flow inside you they just don’t. There were little snippets that should move you, when you can tell it is trying to set you up to feel happy or sad, to cry or laugh, asking you to reflect on the deeper meanings or to think back to the pain or happiness of your own relationships, but because the story is so boring and non-existent, and because these moments portrayed so weakly by the characters on screen, you just feel nothing. And further, you just wander off mentally, mainly wondering how long is left.

Alfred Molina & John Lithgow - Love Is Strange

I will admit though, there is one moment where I felt like the film finally  hinted that it may have a heart, buried somewhere under a lot of nothingness. One short scene where the temperature raised a few degrees and a personality finally revealed. But it’s one grain of sand, lost in the tide of emotional darkness as soon as it’s appeared, and even worse, it’s also given away without thought in the trailer.

I didn’t enjoy Love Is Strange because it just felt like it was lacking a soul. That the strength of it’s beliefs and passion in it’s ideas just steamrollered by the mundane. It felt populated by depressive and negative thoughts and that in some way it was already resigned to its fate. There’s no passion, no quickening of beat, or honeymoon affection. It’s just 90 minutes of moaning “woe is me” and that’s not something I wish to watch.

4 out of 10 stars (4 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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