When it comes to creating drama in film, it is often romantic relationships that are left to do the heavy lifting, with clashes of personalities, aspirations and egos leading to uncertainty and seemingly inevitable heartbreak. There are some films, however, that take a less travelled route. They prove that love can, in fact, be the quiet constant amid the unpredictability of life. Love is Strange is one of those films. Directed by Ira Sachs (Frankie, Forty Shades of Blue), and set in the hustle and bustle of New York City, the 2014 film is an ode to modern romance, albeit with a bittersweet twist.
From the moment they appear together on screen, it is clear that music teacher George (Alfred Molina) and artist Ben (John Lithgow) have the kind of relationship most people can only hope to experience. Together for almost forty years, the couple appear to have it all: successful careers, devoted family and friends, and the kind of love that is refreshing in its simplicity. The fact that their wedding day begins just like any other, with missing glasses and a walk through the streets of Greenwich Village, only serves as further proof that theirs is a commitment that requires no external validation (though a good glass of red and a sing-along by the piano is worth the party!).
In any relationship, however perfect it may be, challenges are inevitable, but George and Ben seem to face a landslide of obstacles all at once. When George’s marriage announcement loses him his longstanding job at a conservative Christian school, he refuses to let it shake his own faith, but the couple’s carefully curated home must be sold, and their lives are thrown into turmoil by his newfound unemployment. Despite the chaos, it is here that the greatest celebration of love is found, as together they navigate the harsh realities of ageing, discrimination and modern city life.
As anyone who has ever tried to find an affordable apartment in Manhattan knows, such a thing is a rarity. Cue a series of awkward conversations as the pair must call on the generosity of family and friends, including nephew Elliot (Darren E. Burrows) and his wife Kate (Marisa Tomei), to give them a place to rest their heads in the city.
Bunking with family and friends can be testing at the best of times, but throw in a moody teenager (Charlie Tahan) or a couple of party-loving cops (Cheyenne Jackson and Manny Perez) and you’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster. Thankfully, that isn’t the only recipe that comes to mind.
When conversations are hard, there’s no doubt that hearty comfort food is the ultimate icebreaker, and Ben’s first night peace offering of a delicious beef stew does just that. Don’t believe us? Next time you’re faced with the prospect of a tense family dinner, try this French beef stew (pot-au-feu) from SBS Food and watch the conversation flow.
Love is Strange proves itself wrong in the best way. Watching George and Ben’s story unfold, it’s clear that there’s actually nothing very strange at all about real love. It simply is. Perhaps the greatest evidence of that love in this case is that it remains committed, even in the face of adversity. Serve up a generous bowl of stew, sit back with your favourite glass of red, and savour the feel-good vibes both on and off screen.
Watch Love is Strange at SBS On Demand
Make the French beef stew
This French stew, also known as pot-au-feu, is from a recipe by Luke Nguyen. You can watch a video of Luke making this dish.