People embrace the enchanting glow of the big screen for all manner of reasons; to journey to faraway places they could only ever imagine, to experience the escapism of a captivating story, or maybe to indulge in an obsession with the world of cinema. For me, all three of these reasons apply - and many more - but first and foremost is the satisfaction of recommending obscure films to other like-minded individuals who adopt them as their new favourites.
With over 100 years worth of films to choose from, and many of these now available at the click of a button, it can be extremely difficult to narrow your choices down to pick a film to watch. Although cinema has been around for over four times longer than my life on this earth, I have spent what some may consider an unhealthy amount of these years delving into the history of films to discover some of the best hidden gems out there.
Love is Strange
Director - Ira Sachs
Country - USA
Year - 2014
Love Is Strange is a subtle meditation on love, life, and loss, channeling Leo McCarey's Make Way For Tomorrow but updating the classic tale to feature an aging gay couple who live in New York. John Lithgow plays Ben, a world-weary painter who marries his long time partner George (Alfred Molina), a music teacher at a catholic school, who subsequently loses his job when the bishop discovers he is married to a man. Forced to vacate and sell the lavish apartment they have lived in for over thirty years, the couple fall back on their supportive friends and family whilst searching for a new home. Ben takes up residence with his nephew, Elliot (Darren Burrows), and wife Kate (Marisa Tomei), where he has to share the bunk beds in their son's room, whereas George takes the sofa at their friend's flat; two gay policemen known affectionately as 'the police women' who are constantly throwing late night parties. Separated from each other and living in different parts of the city, Ben and George struggle to adjust to their new surroundings and this strain takes a toll on their relationship and their health.
A subdued classical soundtrack acts as a beautiful accompaniment to this touching story, with the delicate piano complimenting the gentle personas of Ben and George. This soundscape crosses over into the story more than once due to George's affinity for music, in scenes where he plays piano to his friends and teaches his pupils. George is deeply hurt by the decision the school's board takes to relieve him of his position, and the jaded views of those acting upon this is the catalyst for many of his (and Ben's) future woes.
Like Ben living at his nephew's apartment, we feel like a fly on the wall watching the unfolding
storyline as Sachs chooses to exhibit the mundane as much as he focuses on that which is significant, giving us a true understanding of the day to day sadness inflicted on the couple by this upsetting turn of events. Ben is exposed to the inner turmoil affecting his nephew's family, namely the testing relationship between rebellious teen Joey (Charlie Tahan) and his parents, and he inadvertently worsens the situation by using Joey's best (and only) friend as a model for his painting when the boys should be studying. Joey struggles to adapt to sharing his room with his dad's gay uncle, which is understandably one of the last things that a teenager would want imposed upon their private space. Tahan showcases this frustration exceptionally well; Joey clearly doesn't want to upset Ben but you can sense the unhappiness lurking underneath the surface.
Love Is Strange is a poignant and affecting character study; a small-scale drama exploring important themes that will resonate with people from all walks of life. Sachs carefully exposes his character's weaknesses in a graceful and respectable manner as Ben and George come to realise the world is moving along without them. The heartache and pain this causes is inherent throughout, although, like Ben and George, it is often pushed to one side in favour of the stories of other minor but fascinating characters in the film.
If you take the time to watch Love is Strange then it would be awesome if you could also take the time to let me know what you thought of it, either by commenting below or tweeting me @filmbantha. Thanks, and enjoy!