Beck Theatre

Harefield Gazette - - LEISURE -

Sen­er­vat­ing, toxic, mirac­u­lous, un­re­quited, re­demp­tive: love ex­erts an ir­re­sistible hold on the hu­man heart. Greek philoso­pher Plato pro­fessed love to be a se­ri­ous men­tal dis­ease, while Martin Luther King Jr be­lieved it to be the only force ca­pa­ble of trans­form­ing an en­emy into a friend.

Shake­speare po­et­i­cally de­scribed love as a smoke made with the fume of sighs and as for song­writ­ers Len­non and McCart­ney, it is the flower you’ve got to let grow or, most sim­ply, all you need.

For film­maker Ira Sachs and co-writer Mauri­cio Zacharias, love is a long-term re­la­tion­ship be­tween two gay men set against the bustling back­drop of mod­ern-day Man­hat­tan.

Un­der­scored pre­dom­i­nantly by Chopin, Love Is Strange is an el­e­gant char­ac­ter study, which sketches th­ese mid­dle-aged soul­mates with ten­der­ness and heart­break­ing in­ti­macy.

Sachs’ film is il­lu­mi­nated by two ex­quis­ite per­for­mances from John Lith­gow and Molina as a mar­ried cou­ple who are wary of re­ly­ing on the kind­ness of fam­ily and friends be­cause ‘some­times when you live with peo­ple, you know them bet­ter than you care to’.

Fa­mil­iar­ity breeds not just contempt but also dis­il­lu­sion­ment, sus­pi­cion and, ul­ti­mately, aching lone­li­ness.

Ben (Lith­gow) and his part­ner Ge­orge (Molina) have spent al­most four decades to­gether.

They fi­nally le­galise their union in front of fam­ily and friends in­clud­ing Ben’s nephew (Dar­ren Bur­rows) and wife Kate (Marisa Tomei), plus po­lice of­fice neigh­bours Ted (Cheyenne Jack­son) and (Manny Perez).

Shortly af­ter the happy day, Ge­orge loses his job as a mu­sic teacher at St Grace’s Church and Catholic school in Man­hat­tan, be­cause Face­book pic­tures of the hon­ey­moon in Petra have been brought to the at­ten­tion of the

“The Bishop wasn’t happy,” ex­plains Fa­ther (John Cul­lum) sym­pa­thet­i­cally.

With­out Ge­orge’s steady in­come, the cou­ple face the prospect of hav­ing to sell their highly de­sir­able apart­ment. Ge­orge moves in with Ted and

while Ben seeks shel­ter with Kate and their tru­cu­lent teenage son Joey (Char­lie Ta­han), who is far from thrilled about shar­ing his bunk bed with an el­derly gay un­cle.

The sep­a­ra­tion causes fric­tion be­tween fam­ily and friends.

I know is that af­ter 39 years it’s hard to fall asleep with­out you,” laments Ben to Ge­orge.

Love Is Strange treats all of the flawed char­ac­ters with a del­i­cate and even hand although our hearts in­vari­ably be­long to the leads.

Lith­gow and Molina per­form as if they have been shar­ing the same space for decades, trad­ing gen­tle touches or long­ing glances as their care­fully or­dered world un­rav­els.

Tomei, Jack­son, Perez et al of­fer strong sup­port, en­rich­ing their own dys­func­tional yet equally lov­ing re­la­tion­ships.

Love is a drug and re­gard­less of the with­drawal symptoms, we all want to be ad­dicts.

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