Love is Strange, but so are my sleeping habits. I stayed up until 1a.m., watching this. Believe me, I need my beauty sleep and so do these old codgers, George (Alfred Molina) and Ben (John Lithgow). Ben is 73. We know that because later in the film he blacks out and falls down some stairs of the New York, brown-stone apartment he lives in, while coming down from the communal roof. The cost of medical care might be a problem, or another problem added to a litany. George is perhaps fifteen years younger. They are an old married, gay, couple. Finally, after 39 years living together they are able to get married.
That’s where we come in, their wedding, with their family. Well, not direct family. What they mean by that is Ben’s nephew and his wife and son that live in the apartment downstairs. Their neighbours, two male gay cops. And another female couple, who I took to be lesbians, but really who cares what you do with your fiddly bits?
The Catholic Church cares. Gay marriage is the kind of abomination that has evangelists lining up to shoot down such sinful states and if there’s a few casualties along the way, so much the better. Here the law of unintended consequence comes into effect. George loves music and is a music teacher in Catholic schools. Ben is a painter and artist. It’s all very well them arty-farting about for almost 40 years explains the priest that sacks George, but when they make it official, and the Bishop gets to hear about it (it’s all over Facebook) then something got to give. What’s got to give is George.
George is out of work. Ben’s pension isn’t enough to pay the mortgage. Some sharp suit tells George he’s been lucky to have a house for that length of time and out of the goodness of his heart he’s will to compensate them with $17 000 cash. Enough to buy a second-hand car, but neither of them drive. Neither George or Ben can find any place that will take them. They can’t afford to move, but aren’t allowed to stay. What makes this unusual here is it’s not a coloured working class couple, or single mother, but a white, middle-class, elderly couple who are vulnerable.
They need to split up –temporarily – until they get something. George is allowed to sleep on the settee of the gay cops that live downstairs. Ben moves into the bottom bunk of his nephew’s, son’s, bedroom. It reminded me the way we used to separate men and women when we put them in the poor house. There’s a story, about that, an old married couple, no longer having each other to lean on, dying shortly after admission. I can’t remember what it’s called, or who wrote it, which worries me. I should play some scary music here. You’re next, pal.
What follows is the tensions and bickering that happens when people try and do the right thing. When houses became a financial asset and not somewhere in which we live, financial whiz-kids are always out to make a killing. Coming to a cinema near us too soon.