On one hand, “Love Is Strange” is a quiet love story about a longtime couple heading into their golden years. On the other, “It’s like ‘Titanic,’ ” director Ira Sachs says.
“I hesitate to say that, but it’s such a clear example of a classic love story where the obstacle is external, and how the couple overcomes this obstacle together,” Sachs says.
In the film, out locally Friday, Ben and George (John Lithgow and Alfred Molina) have been together for 40 years but just recently made it official. When news of their wedding reaches the Catholic school where George teaches — which, up until now, had turned a blind eye to his relationship — George loses his job. Unable to afford their New York City apartment, the newlyweds decide to stay separately with family and friends. Where another movie might turn the situation into a fiery condemnation of discrimination, “Love Is Strange” takes a quietly observational stance, partially, Sachs says, because of Ben and George’s nature.
“They’re not fighters. They’re not taking to the streets. In this situation, they accept what is,” says Sachs, who co-wrote the script. “I think there’s a humility to that that I find very specific to that generation. There are men I know who have lived kind of gentle, unexceptional — except in their own sphere — lives. And yet they are disappearing as a generation. It’s a film that tries to ask, ‘What do we owe the generation that brought us up?’ ”
For a film that starts with a wedding, “Love Is Strange” spends almost no time discussing marriage equality; however, the nation’s bend toward acceptance of same-sex marriage was integral to how Sachs approached the story.
“I’ve never been so optimistic about gay rights in this country,” he says. “The film, its lightness, its humor, its lack of sturm und drang is timely. This movie couldn’t have been made, at least by me, five years ago.”
Still, he says, “Love Is Strange” is not a “gay movie.”
“People remark that we haven’t seen a lot of gay characters like this before, and I think, ‘Well, none of us can be defined by single adjectives,’ ” he says. “Hopefully it’s a movie about intimacy and relationships and family.”
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