Ira Sachs’ sweet, insightful Love is Strange defies categorization. It is the story of two gay men, Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina), who have been a happy couple for 39 years. But when they make their union official by getting married, Ben is fired from his job at a Catholic prep school, forcing the pair to sell their apartment and lean on the kindness of others until they can find a new place.
Ben goes to stay with his nephew Eliot (Darren E. Burrows) and his wife Kate (Marisa Tomei), who have a son who immediately resents having to share his bedroom with a relative he barely knows. George moves in with the party-loving Ted (Cheyenne Jackson), who tries to get him hooked on Game of Thrones (“Daenerys is so fierce!”) and to join him and his friends for marathon Dungeons and Dragons sessions.
The arrangement is fine at first, but with no affordable apartment in sight, the houseguests start to put a strain on their hosts, especially Kate, a writer who works from home and is constantly being interrupted by Ben, an amiable fellow who just loves to talk. Sachs (Keep the Lights On) has a keen eye for the sacrifices we make and favors we do for friends and relatives — as well as the quiet resentment that often goes along with them. In a brisk 94 minutes, he gives us a group of fully rounded characters whose reactions are recognizable and real (after Ben falls and breaks his shoulders, Kate sighs in annoyance, knowing this is going to mean more work for her).
But the more strained things get, the stronger Ben and George’s commitment to each other shines. Sometimes, love can feel like hate or annoyance — it is, as the title states, strange. But sometimes, more often than not, it can be a wonderful thing.
Cast: John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, Marisa Tomei, Darren E. Burrows, Charlie Tahan, Cheyenne Jackson.
Director: Ira Sachs.
Screenwriters: Ira Sachs, Mauricio Zacharias.
A Sony Pictures Classics release. Running time: 94 minutes. Vulgar language, adult themes. In Miami-Dade: South Beach; in Broward: Gateway, Paradise; in Palm Beach: Delray, Palace, Shadowood.