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TIFF 2019 Review: Ordinary Love – “The truthful depiction of a middle-aged love story”

Image Courtesy of TIFF

Perhaps the greatest love stories are the ones seldom told – those of enduring love.  Tales of love that have survived not only time, but also tragedy and the banality of the every day. Perhaps the greatest love is Ordinary Love.

Joan (Lesley Manville) and Tom (Liam Neeson) share just such a relationship.  Their days are filled with walks along the water, taking the same route to the same tree.  They watch television, they do the grocery shopping.  They eat lunch together where the biggest change is the addition of some Worcestershire sauce to the soup.  They simply live.  That is, until Joan finds a lump in her breast and their day to day routine suddenly erupts in chaos.  With the loss of their daughter already a tragic moment in their relationship, Joan’s diagnosis again tests the couple’s resolve.

The charm of Ordinary Love is the truthful depiction of a middle-aged love story.  Together Manville and Neeson have an easy and comfortable chemistry, imperative to the success of the film.  They bicker and have petty arguments like most couples, and it looks as if they’ve been doing it for decades.  In the same turn, they have a palpable tenderness between them, making Joan and Tom’s love for one another seem a tangible entity.  Manville has some tougher physicality to her role as well once Joan begins her chemotherapy that only magnifies her already considerable talent.

Co-directors Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn, working from a very personal screenplay from Owen McCafferty (his own wife also went through treatment for breast cancer) paint an intimate portrait of a couple whose very existence is threatened.  They are aptly able to capture the intricacies of a decades-long relationship and the new stressors introduced.  The devil is in the details.  Details like cups of tea being made, a glance, a touch, unsaid words, an absence.  However, the film never feels bogged down by them, only enhanced by them.

When we typically see romance on screen it is that passionate love at the beginning or the painful way things end.  It’s hardly ever depicted as that middle bit – the place where true love and companionship actually thrive.  To see a couple make it through their challenges and still like one another seems a rarity on screen, and somewhat in real life too.  Perhaps that’s what makes Ordinary Love, seem a little bit extra-ordinary.

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