Just in time for Valentine’s day, a film that genuinely shows the complexities, subtleties and nuances of us complicated human beings. It happens to be about two men of advancing years, but really its central themes could apply to anyone of any age. It’s a rich, rewarding experience that will haunt you for a long time.
John Lithgow and Alfred Molina are the central couple, two hugely liked and popular men who decide to get married after being together for so long. The story opens with their marriage day, a happy occasion with lots of laughter, wine and song. This bliss doesn’t last for long.
Molina loses his job in a church as a consequence, and with Lithgow a pensioner they cannot afford their lovely Manhattan apartment. They are forced to split up while they look for somewhere else to live. Molina finds himself in the impossibly noisy flat of their policeman pals, while Lithgow moves in with his niece, Marisa Tomei. She is a writer, slowly being driven mad by his chatter and funny habits, but there are other factors here too.
She has a husband who appears to take no notice of her, keeps getting mysterious phone calls and is always too tired for sex. Their son is troubled, struggling at school and has a weird relationship with a schoolfriend, Vlad.
The story takes its time to piece together the sort of things that crack relationships, the too loud music, the chatter, the tea slurping. There are moments of real tenderness, cuddling, joke cracking, and a couple of really sublime sequences. Molina berates a music student, all of eight years old, for her interpretation of Chopin, but when she plays it again he is transported. Similarly Lithgow is shown painting on his neice’s building roof, and the camera takes its time to take in the amazing, unique beauty of New York in the summer.
It’s not perfect by any means, for example there is a hippie character who refuses to take the old men in and whose role never gets anywhere. Similarly the source of the young boy’s troubles is never explicitly spelled out – perhaps it’s just the agony of being a youth, yearning for things that seem so far away. He gets the last shot of the film, it’s just a shame his role wasn’t more fully written.
Over its 90 minutes though it casts a spell which is difficult to resist. It’s wryly comic, sad and intriguing in equal measure, a joy to behold.
Overall verdict: a slow burn of a movie with charm, wit and honesty to burn. It may take its time but it will leave an indelible mark on your soul with its honest depiction of the everyday nature of having a partner. Charming.
Reviewer: Mike Martin