Obviously, I love movies of all genres (except horror), but when a film like ORDINARY LOVE comes along, it reminds me how much I cherish the ones that dignify small stories about ordinary life. Screenwriter Owen McCafferty based much of his screenplay on the experiences he and his wife, Peggy, shared when she was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer.
Joan (Lesley Manville) and Tom (Liam Neeson) are a long-time married couple who have survived much and still maintain a loving, supportive relationship. Retired, they spend their days doing the things many couples do --- walking, shopping, making dinner, watching TV and so on.
Their life is easy and comfortable, until Joan discovers a small lump in her breast. Traversing the hardships of biopsies, surgeries and chemo, Joan and Tom navigate all the emotions associated with this crisis, which takes place over a year’s time.
Manville, who was a Best Supporting Actress nominee for PHANTOM THREAD (2017), and Neeson are sublime together. Their chemistry is so believable that it’s mystifying. She is incredibly moving to watch as her character deals with her disease and a husband, though devoted, doesn’t always get everything right. Manville is such an accomplished actor who has won several British acting wards, and she has never been better.
As for Neeson, this is his best performance in years. It’s wonderful to see him in a role like this instead of January throwaways like THE GREY. Tom is strong but vulnerable and Neeson never shies away from presenting those emotions with conviction. It’s a quiet performance that is so remarkably poignant.
McCafferty’s writing is so spot on. At one point during the film --- though we never talk --- I leaned over to tell David that I penned the script, and he, at the same time, asked me if I had written it --- that’s how realistic it is based on our own relationship.
His dialogue is so open and honest, which is paramount for a film about two people who have been together for many years and yet must face these difficult decisions.
But I MUST emphatically state that ORDINARY LOVE is not a sad movie. McCafferty has injected a lot of humor about the everyday trials and tribulations between couples. There are some amazingly tender moments as well, as one may expect. Tom cutting Joan’s hair, then shaving her head, is breathtakingly simple --- funny and moving.
I cannot recommend ORDINARY LOVE enough! If you live for films that are truly well crafted and beautifully acted, then you cannot miss ORDINARY LOVE.
Opinion: Strong See It Now!
ORDINARY LOVE is a sweet film with Lesley Manville and Liam Neeson as Joan and Tom, a retired married couple living in Ireland. The film is a faithful rendering about a typical wife and husband dealing with whatever life throws at them.
Tom and Joan take their daily walk along the water, always turning around at the same tree. They do grocery shopping together, arguing about how much beer he should buy and how many Brussel sprouts she should buy.
These small mundane things are reduced to little importance when Joan is diagnosed with breast cancer. ORDINARY LOVE is not a tearjerker. It is, however, a beautifully written story by Owen McCafferty about her ordeal with cancer, how Tom usually supports her or sometimes does not, depending on the day.
At the hospital one day, Joan strikes up a conversation with their daughter’s gay elementary school teacher, Peter (David Wilmot), who is dealing with terminal cancer and has a partner, Steve (Amit Shah) who is in denial. The friendship they develop adds another layer to the story.
ORDINARY LOVE is not at all sentimental, maudlin or melodramatic in any way. It simply has a lot to say about how most of us would feel in their situation. This is not a depressing film, quite the opposite. There are many touches of warmth and humor as these people cope with adversity. When Joan starts to lose her hair --- she begins picking off her tresses in clumps --- Tom offers to cut what’s left and shave her head. They actually giggle hysterically at this prospect, demonstrating there can be lightness in darker times.
Manville, an Academy Award nominee for 2017’s PHANTOM THREAD, has a long film and TV career dating back to 1974. And it’s good to see an actor of Neeson’s caliber not involved with deadly animals or tracking down a kidnapper. Thus, their performances as Joan and Tom are as credible as you’re likely to see anywhere.
Opinion: See It Now!