Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Lisa Barros D’Sa, Glenn Lyburn
Screenwriter: Owen McCafferty
Cast: Lesley Manville, Liam Neeson, David Wilmot, Amit Shah
Screened at: Park Ave., NYC, 2/10/20
Opens: February 14, 2020
People go to movies because they like to laugh, but they also like to cry. In the classic downer, Arthur Hiller’s 1970 movie “Love Story,” a young couple fall in love. Death strikes, especially tragic since the couple have their whole lives ahead of them. You would expect the primary audience to be people of about the same age, 20-somethings. On Valentine’s day comes a new weepie, “Ordinary Love,” which deals with people in the sixties, now retired. You might expect an audience to be older than the ones that attended the Hiller film.
Though neither of the principal characters passes away, the story is filled with the ways that the two cope with a diagnosis that confirms that the lump that Joan (Lesley Manville) feels in her breast while in the shower is cancer. Though her hopes are up at first when the doctors are not sure, they are dashed after the final test. Since Joan has a partner, her husband Tom (Liam Neeson) is drawn into the drama. Tom has the time free to escort his wife to and from the hospital, though whatever physical difficulties are involved in transporting from a Belfast suburb to the big city hospital is nothing compared to the emotional torment that such a situation provokes.
Some psychoanalysts tell us that when two married people, even those who have lived together for decades, encounter a serious illness, the sick person, who faces surgery, mastectomy, reconstruction of the breast, all followed up by a course in chemotherapy, is not the only individual who suffers. A serious sickness could threaten a marriage, no matter how fond the husband is of his wife. Petty arguments notwithstanding. Tom sometimes baits Joan with comments that he considers witty but which are taken in a negative way by Joan. Now, however, the normal, quiet household of an average couple is strained to such an extent that when Tom lets slip a thoughtless comment—“We’re in this together” as though they share a burden equally—you can sympathize with Joan’s fury.
The directors Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Lyburn, who worked together in 2012 on the film “Good Vibrations,” may be stepping out of their comfort zone by morphing from a duo about a story of a man who developed Belfast’s punk-rock scene into tackling one of a generally stay-at-home couple giving each other ordinary love.
Since Owen McCafferty, whose script for “Mikybo and Me”—about two young pals obsessed with “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” who run away to Australia–contributes ordinary dialogue for this ordinary couple, the principal joy of “Ordinary Love” is in the acting. Giving themselves over this a slice of life, Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville come across so bonded with each other that you might swear they were actually married. They take us from their suburb of Belfast into the big city medical system (filmed on location by Piers McGrail), allowing us to see UK’s health coverage up close and personal. The sadness mounts when we are introduced to Peter (David Wilmot), whom the couple run into at the hospital, where they learn that Peter has terminal cancer. Peter had once taught Joan and Tom’s daughter. Oh, and young Debbie, perhaps the only child of the marriage, had died a decade ago.
This, then, is a story well told, one that expects a mature audience as drawn into the ordinary lives of these people as youngsters might be riveted by “Lord of the Rings.”
91 minutes. © 2020 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B
Acting – A-
Technical – B
Overall – B