Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) take advantage of New York's new marriage laws and tie the knot after being together for 39 years. Unfortunately, the Catholic school where George teaches does not approve and they reluctantly fire him, forcing the couple to split up while they sell their apartment and look for cheaper housing. George moves in with two friends (Cheyenne Jackson and Manny Perez) while Ben ends up across town with his nephew (Darren Burrows), his wife (Marisa Tomei) and their teenage son with whom Ben shares a bunk bed. While struggling with the pain of separation, Ben and George are further challenged by the intergenerational tensions and capricious family dynamics of their new living arrangements.
For most people, your wedding day is usually the happiest day of your life. It is where you tell the world in front of your friends, family, and God that you are committing to sharing your life with that special someone until you are no more. But for Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina), a gay couple who have been together for 39 years, are finally getting hitched in New York City. I wouldn’t go as far as to say this is the happiest day of their lives, since we can already see in the opening minutes of the film that they have both led very happy lives together in their great Manhattan apartment, as they are getting ready like any other normal day for their wedding ceremony.
Getting dressed, showering, fixing their bow ties, running late, and failing to find a cab to take them to their big event, Ben and George seem to have been through it all, and have taken each obstacle with grace and laughter. But when the two of them are separated physically right after their wedding day due to reasons beyond their control, indie director Ira Sachs (‘Forty Shades of Blue‘) gives us an intimate glimpse into the human relationships through hardships so late in life.
After their wedding, they have a small party at their apartment, which looks like any number of parties they might have thrown over the years complete with good food, good alcohol, singing, and dancing. Their small wedding party includes Ben’s nephew Elliot (Darren Burrows), a too busy for his own family businessman, his wife Kate (Marisa Tomei), a successful novelist who works from home, their teenage son Joey (Charlie Tahan), and two gay party-hopping police officers Roberto (Manny Perez) and Ted (Cheyenne Jackson), who live together in the newlywed’s building.
Unfortunately, the news of their marriage reaches the New York archdiocese, and George (a long time Catholic School music teacher) is fired from his job, forcing Ben and George to sell their apartment. When finding a new place is more difficult than originally anticipated, they graciously ask their friends and family for a roof over their heads. While Ben heads to his nephew’s Elliot’s house to share a bunk bed with their teenage son, George takes up the couch with hard partying Roberto and Ted.
Sachs and his co-writer Mauricio Zacharias give us a very tender and realistic account of these two lovers in their later years, who are struggling to keep their happiness and find a way to physically be with each other again. Their script will bring up memories from any of your past relationships that are not only funny, but very charming and sweet, for example when the two men are in a historic gay bar, and talk about their younger lives together and all the trouble they used to get into as they looked over the younger crowd. The film feels like Sachs’s ode to the Big Apple as it too plays a character in the film.
Molina and Lithgow deserve awards for their performances here. They really fall into their roles and make us believe that they have been together for four decades. Their eyes and body language really sell their love for one another, and it has an infectious spell that hovers over the people they stay with. With the excellent script and the endearing performances from these aging actors, mixed with the classical score, ‘Love is Strange‘ is one of those magical films you don’t want to miss.
'Love is Strange' comes with a beautiful 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This image looks simply outstanding from start to finish. The exterior shots of beautiful New York City hasn't looked this good since Woody Allen was still making films there. The detail is very sharp and vivid throughout, showcasing excellent and well defined textures and facial features. Every wrinkle on the aging actors, their makeup, and individual hairs show up very nicely and clear in every scene. Even in the wider shots, you can make out the imperfections in their faces. It's that good.
The wide shots are also crystal clear and beautiful, showing the beautiful cityscape that is Manhattan on several occasions. The colors are bright and simply pop off screen at all times. George and Ben's colorful outfits whip up a variety of beautiful colors along with the rich scenery of the green parks in New York, the blue skies, and the wonderful rust colored buildings. It's like looking at an amazing and gorgeous moving painting. The skin tones are natural and the black levels are consistently deep and inky. There were no issues with banding, aliasing, debris, or any noise to speak of, leaving this video presentation with high-end marks.
This release comes with a great lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix. This heartwarming film has a great soundscape, even though it's quite soft spoken with excellent classical music throughout. Don't expect giant robots to appear or any explosions to happen. The biggest sound you'll get will be either in a bar, party, or musical duet by Molina and Lithgow. That being said, the sound effects of Manhattan and the big city fully immerse you in this couple's world.
The sound of taxis driving by, New Yorkers chattering in the distance, or a full sound of a children's choir in a church sound excellent and well layered There is also some great directionality too. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow too, and free of any pops, cracks, and hissing. No shrieking or shrills are heard either. This is mostly a front heavy track, but the rears do their job quite nicely with the ambient noises and bigger sounds when available. The LFE is excellent and the dynamic range is wide, leaving this audio presentation with high marks.
Audio Commentary with John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, and Ira Sachs - This commentary is quite good if you loved the film. All three men have a great chemistry together and give some fun and interesting tidbits about making the film, their characters, the story, and script. This is a fluid and smooth track.
What is Love: 'Making of 'Love is Strange' (HD, 24 Mins.) - Here is a decent sized behind the scenes with cast and crew interviews and on-set footage of making the film. If you want to know what went into making this movie from casting, to the script, and locations, give this a watch.
LA Film Festival Q&A with John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, Cheyenne Jackson, and Ira Sachs (HD, 25 Mins.) - The mentioned filmmakers are up on stage with the audience asking questions about the film. There are some fun laughs and more or less the same information from the previous two extras.
Trailers (HD, 16 Mins.) - The trailer for the film along with six other trailer for other Sony pictures.
'Love is Strange' is an excellent film with two characters that you become so attached to, that you feel like you've known them for years. The acting and imagery are quite spectacular. This is one of my favorite films of the year. The video and audio presentations are both outstanding, and while there doesn't seem to be a big quantity of extras, they are all worth watching. This little indie dramatic comedy comes highly recommended!