Thursday 1 September 2022

Movie Review: Ordinary Love (2019)

A romantic drama, Ordinary Love is a simple story of a well-matched couple navigating an unwelcome health crisis.

In Belfast, Joan and Tom Thompson (Lesley Manville and Liam Neeson) are a long-married couple, both retired and still comfortably in love, although the death of their daughter in an accident years prior still hurts. Now Joan feels a lump in her left breast, and after tests reveal the presence of cancer, she embarks on treatment involving surgery and chemotherapy. Tom provides full support, but the endless hospital visits and uncertain outcomes test the marriage's harmony.

A two-person character study, Ordinary Love tracks a year-long journey through the medical system. Refreshingly, writer Owen McCafferty is interested in capturing the coping habits of adjusted adults, and co-directors Lisa Barros D'Sa and Glenn Leyburn construct a tidy, histrionics-free drama. No villains intrude on this story, even the medical system functions when and as needed, and most scenes portray mundane but essential hospital procedures and their physical and emotional after effects.

The ordinary title underlines the normalcy of often ignored long-lasting unions, and the pragmatism Joan and Tom bring into their year of turmoil does mean the film lacks sparks. This sophisticated marriage balances on communication, demonstrated appreciation, companionship, sensuality, and limitless love. The couple do lose their composure on a couple of testing occasions, but are quick to recalibrate. 

Barros D'Sa and Leyburn inject vibrancy by actively seeking interesting perspectives and playful lighting, with an emphasis on orderly symmetry, straight lines, and stark contrasts. The palette is dominated by the grey skies of Northern Ireland and the equally grey aesthetics of hospitals and doctors' offices.

The film demands perfect central performances, and Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville provide an immediate sense of two people comfortable in their own skin and just as comfortable as a couple aware of entrenched quirks and instinctively calibrated rhythms. As the patient subjected to a barrage of medical procedures, Manville pushes into a raw and physically demanding performance. The only other notable characters are gay couple Peter and Steve (David Wilmot and Amit Shah). They are also going through cancer treatment, providing Joan and Tom an opportunity to compare, contrast, and interact.

No extraordinary acts reside within Ordinary Love - other than the quiet demonstration of resiliency, seemingly effortless but actually nurtured over decades.

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