Love Is Strange – Film Review

Love is Strange

Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) have been a couple for nearly forty years but were unable to legally get married until New York changed its attitude to same-sex weddings. After finally getting married George finds himself dismissed from his job teaching at a Catholic music school. With their income slashed the couple are forced to sell their apartment leaving them at the mercy of the New York housing market and relying on the kindness of their friends and family to take them in. The loved ones who gave such moving speeches at their wedding find themselves having to actually act on their sentiments and come up short. Nobody is willing to take in both men so after decades together Ben and George find themselves sleeping not just in separate beds but in different apartments.

Ben ends up in his nephew’s family home sharing a bunk bed with a decidedly unimpressed teenager while George moves in with some former neighbours who are a much younger couple prone to hosting loud crowded parties that George no longer has any patience for. Both try to be the best house guests they can but Ben especially finds himself getting in the way and testing the patience of his hosts. Separated and under appreciated Ben and George rediscover just how much they enjoy each others company and the understated authenticity of their long romance holds their relationship, and the film, together.

Love is Strange 2

Alfred Molina and John Lithgow are not actors known for their subtlety, both being fantastic at taking on large characters and blowing them up to fill the stage or screen. In Love is Strange though director Ira Sachs has managed to take the scenery out of their mouths and drawn out much more subtle and nuanced performances. Lithgow does none of the loud shouting that had made us love him and as a result gives one of his best performances to date. With Love is Strange the familiar faces fade away to reveal an older couple who are deeply in love and whose company is infinitely preferable to their chaotic friends and impatient family members.

Within their script Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias have a funny and tender love story set many decades after most romantic comedies end. This is the happily ever after. Despite their difficult living situations Love is Strange doesn’t bring with it high drama, settling instead for a portrait of love told by showing a few periods in our characters lives. The film occasionally jumps forward a few weeks or months and it is up to the audience to find their own footing in the gently flowing narrative. As a result of its distinctively indistinct structure the film ends not with a bang but with a slow sigh. I can see how this might frustrate but instead I suggest accepting the film for what it is; a brief interlude into the lives of a lovely couple and the people that love them. The characters have had lives prior to the film and they continue on afterwards. The fact that I wish I had seen more is to the film’s credit.

A beautiful film about love, family, and getting old Love is Strange is a pleasant way to spend an evening.

Love Is Strange is in UK cinemas right now.

WIGS – Strong Female Characters Ahoy!

Serena WIGS

While searching for something completely unrelated on YouTube last week I stumbled, as I often seem to do, over something a little different. WIGS is an online channel that has been producing high quality scripted drama and releasing it on the internet for free since 2012. I realise that this makes me somewhat late to the game but my research technique mostly involves me clicking through the internet one page at a time so forgive my lateness.

If you are already aware of WIGS then please move along but if not bear with me a second.

What made WIGS stick out to me was firstly the fact that the short films and web series starred actual actors whose names and faces I recognised. Much as I realise this shouldn’t matter to me I have to acknowledge that it does, particularly in the Wild West of YouTube filled with plenty of videos so awful you’d be better off watching the adverts that precede them. I am to blame for some of these videos so I know what I’m talking about.

Faces you might recognise include Julia Stiles, Jennifer Garner, Dakota Fanning, Michael C. Hall, America Ferrera, Stephen Moyer, Jason Isaacs, Jena Malone, Alfred Molina, Allison Janney, Alison Pill, Jeanne Tripplehorn, and plenty others.

The second thing that intrigued me about WIGS may have become evident while reading that artfully copy and pasted list of names; there are women all over the place. It has not been a great time for women on the internet recently/ever and it was refreshing to be offered the opportunity to see female actors take on complex leading roles rather than being offered the opportunity to see female actors take off their shirts without their permission. The phrase “strong female characters” is bandied about a lot and often refers to examples of women in dystopian futures being manipulated and punching authority figures in the throat. A strong female character doesn’t need to possess physical strength just character, real motivations, and to be a protagonists not just a prop or pawn. WIGS provides these in abundance.

I have not been asked to push this particular channel so hard but liked what I saw and wanted to share it with you. To watch their videos I advise visiting their YouTube channel and I have embedded some highlights below:

Jennifer Garner & Alfred Molina star in a short about a woman taking confession.

Allison Janney & Dakota Fanning star in a short about a young woman visiting a doctor who also happens to be a friend of her mother.

Alison Pill & Chris Messina star in a short about an actress being picked up by a man she may have met before.

Jena Malone stars in a series about a young mother relying on poker wins to survive.

Rango – Review


If there is one problem with Rango, it is that it is a little bit too long. If there are two problems with Rango… nope, there’s nothing else.

Rango is clever, funny and sentimental, all in the right degree. This is one animated film that isn’t trying to make you cry before the end credits roll, or more accurately explode onscreen in a beautifully animated closing credits sequence. A sequence that revealed a lot of actors I had not recognised the voices of during the film.

Bill Nighy! Abigail Breslin! Alfred Molina! Johnny Depp is far from being the only big name on board, yet Rango hardly needs to rely on it’s big names to prove itself. What it already has is a true western told using lizards, rodents and birds that refuses to compromise despite being an animated feature. The film is all the better for actors playing real characters rather than just making sure their voices are recognisable.

With Industrial Light and Magic on board, normally found provided special effects blending in with live action, this is by far the most visually exciting animated film so far. Rango himself looks as photo-real as an animated chameleon can and everything has so much texture it is astonishing.

Rango is a joy and a real education in how to make a great animated feature, and one that is probably more enjoyable to watch as an adult than as a child.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time – Review

I wasn’t expecting much going into The Prince of Persia and as soon as I spied Papyrus typeface onscreen, a major peeve for font nerds and civilised society, I thought my expectations were going to be met. The incredibly rushed opening sequences didn’t help either, rather leaving me a bit confused and impatient. As someone who has never played the game on which the film was based I needed a slightly gentler introduction into the world.

I suppose they were simply trying to get the back-story out of the way so that the story itself could begin and to be fair they succeeded at that. Once my haze of confusion lifted, and I got over Jake Gyllenhaal’s accent, I found myself actually enjoying the film. What saved the movie for me was the humour present throughout. It wasn’t exactly clever humour but the general back and forth between Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton made the long desert journeys and bizarre plot all the more bearable, and Alfred Molina was a real highlight as the charismatic Sheik.

Sadly the plot really is bizarre, though surely all the more plausible in a video game, as Gyllenhaal and Arterton fight over a knife that can turn back time while his family troubles rage on in the background. The Prince of Persia isn’t going to be watched for it’s plot, it is going to be watched for its attractive cast and the promise of some action. On these points the film does deliver and while it’s not the most fun I’ve had inside a cinema this year there are worse ways to while away two hours.

The film does have a lot to thank its actors for as had the cast not been so damned attractive this review would look a lot different. I’m shallow like that.