In Sachs’ new film, after forty years of sleeping beside one another, a gay couple must adjust to new surroundings and figure out how to nurture an old love on new terms.
Sony Pictures Classics
The youngest character in Ira Sachs' new film, Love Is Strange, is a thief with a penchant for stealing French books. Sachs, who directed and co-wrote the film with Mauricio Zacharias, drew this character from his own childhood. "I had the idea that in my public high school in Memphis, I would be the only one to ever grow up and read French, so why let those books just sit on the shelf? The truth is, I'm still not reading French. So, my arrogance was false."
That arrogance, and how life can change for young gay men as they gain more life experience, appears throughout Sachs' six feature-length films. His last film, Keep The Light On, is a tale about "coming-of-middle-age." With Love is Strange (which expands to more cities beyond New York and L.A. screenings on Friday), the director wanted to see his own expanded perspectives reflected in the lives of his characters. "It was important to at some point put a break on behavior that had begun in a different era. And to try to see how that behavior was perhaps, no longer serving me. And that it was also perhaps more tied to who I was than who I am now."
Love is Strange stars Alfred Molina and John Lithgow as longtime partners who find themselves without the means to continue living in their apartment. Suddenly, George and Ben are forced to rely on the generosity of friends and family, which means finding temporary housing — separately. After forty years of sleeping beside one another, the couple must adjust to new surroundings and figure out how to nurture an old love on new terms. "It's a film I've written at the point that I'm 48 years old and truly middle-aged. There is a perspective one has from being in the middle of one's life, that's different from when I was younger, and I wanted the film to contain these different perspectives."
In the film, Ben lives with his nephew, Elliot, and his wife, Kate, and shares a bunkbed with their son, Joey. George lives with their neighbors, Ted and Roberto, two gay police officers with constant visitors and a non-existent meal schedule. With so many people from different generations sharing the tight spaces of New York City living, moments of misunderstanding, anger, and profound annoyance were inevitable. These are things Sachs has learned all too well.
"When I was writing this film with Mauricio, I went from living alone to living with my husband, our two kids, and their mother in the same apartment. Plus, family visitors coming to help us with the babies. What had been my own space became sometimes five or six people living there, and there was plenty of material for this movie." He laughed, eyes twinkling. "It's funny. Except it's not."
Of course, it is this shift in his everyday life, and the people he shares it with, that not only gave Sachs material, but a theme for the relationship between its main characters. While George feels largely invisible to his hosts, Ben can't seem to find a space where he doesn't become the landing pad for his family's frustration. There was a particularly touching scene where George shows up where Ben is staying and falls into his arms, sobbing. As Ben holds him, George offers apologies for his behavior, only to be held tighter and told, "Stop that." It's an incredibly gentle moment, something we don't often see between two gay men in movies. Sachs continues, "All my films have been about intimacy and relationships, what is distinct is that they have not been tender. I'm experiencing a tender relationship, and that's the dominant relationship in my life, as opposed to other times in which more challenging issues were defining my relationships. And more difficult issues. This film is sort of a personal reflection of a personal state I'm living in."
Sony Pictures Classics