Gay seniors are often excluded in the media. There are now hundreds of LGBTQ-themed films available on DVD/Blu Ray. Most of them are youth-oriented. And when is the last time an older queer character was seen on network television, other than Will and Grace’s cartoonish Beverly Leslie?
Not so with Ira Sachs’ 2014 film Love is Strange, a moving drama about the issues facing a senior gay couple.
As the story opens, Ben and George (John Lithgow, Alfred Molina) are deliriously happy—it’s their wedding day. After being together for 39 years, they are finally able to legally wed. Soon after the marriage, George loses his job with the New York Archdiocese—his marriage to Ben is said to go against church teachings. Without the necessary income from George’s job, the couple cannot afford to keep their New York apartment.
Ben moves in with his nephew, while George moves in with their former neighbors, a younger gay couple. Both men are like fish out of water without each other.
For much of Love Is Strange, the men struggle with their emotions after being torn apart. They search in vain for a cheaper place to live. They must also now grapple with the reality of experiencing homelessness, bunking in homes which aren’t their own.
There are many moving moments in Love is Strange. In one sequence, Ben finds himself in the way when his nephew’s wife, a successful novelist, struggles to get her work done amid Ben’s chatter. In another scene, George shows up in tears, missing Ben and feeling out-of-place in the apartment he now shares with his party-loving roommates.
Love Is Strange ultimately stands as a reminder to those who are still young that their senior years will arrive sooner than they think. The film beautifully, if sadly, illustrates that our so-called “golden years” are often no picnic but can be rife with hardships that seniors, trapped as they are in aging, increasingly fragile bodies, might be ill equipped to deal with.
Lithgow and Molina are superb as a couple whose love for each other has not diminished. Both actors beautifully convey that love, as well as the deep and profound sense of loss they feel at being forced to live apart. Simple scenes, such as when they meet for a concert and a drink, become even more moving when the harsh reality sets in—at the end of the evening they are forced to say goodbye at a subway station.
Teen actor Charlie Tahan is equally good as Ben’s great-nephew Joey, a kid who resents the intrusion of having to share his room with his uncle. Joey is not a villain; he’s just a kid who wants his privacy. Marisa Tomei also offers fine work as Joey’s mom, a woman who genuinely loves Ben, even as she finds herself torn between doing the right thing and her own need for privacy.
Love is Strange is ultimately a sweet story, at once sad and uplifting. It’s not only about growing older; it’s about the healing power of love.
The film is available at Amazon on DVD, Blu Ray, and streaming video.