Interview by Sean Boelman
In anticipation of the release of their new film Ordinary Love, disappointment media got the opportunity to speak with filmmaking duo Lisa Barros d’Sa and Glenn Leyburn. Starring Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville, the film is a quiet romance looking at the relationship of a couple after one of them receives a life-changing diagnosis. In the interview, we discuss the film’s stars, its unique approach to the subject matter, and more. Check out the interview below and see Ordinary Love in theaters now!
disappointment media: As the title suggests, the film is about an ordinary couple that love each other completely. How do you think an “ordinary love” like this can also be seen as something extraordinary?
Lisa Barros d’Sa: Starting with the title, I think that love is ordinary only in that it is universal. If we’re fortunate, we all get to experience it at some point in our lives. If we’re fortunate, we all get to experience it at some time or another in our lives. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t contain the epic: the painful, the joyful, the tragic too. I mean, one of the most extraordinary things about us as human beings is our capacity to love and connect with others in the way that this film shows. And this film we feel really utilizes one of the great strengths of cinema which is to magnify tiny moments of human life and of human interaction and reveal them in their magnificence on the screen. So this is the story of all the small moments and events that go to make up any relationship, any love, any connection.
disappointment: Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville do an extraordinary job in their lead roles. How did you know they were perfect for these roles?
Glenn Leyburn: Liam was actually somebody we had been talking to for a couple of years previously about a different project and we actually ended up being introduced to him by Bono. Our previous film was about the punk rock scene in Belfast in the 1970’s, and he ended up introducing us to Liam about another project, and that project for many reasons hasn’t yet come to fruition. But when we read the first draft of this film, Ordinary Love, and we just heard Liam’s voice in place, and you know how when we got to know him a little bit, we had a pretty good idea of the type of material he was interested in, and we sent it to him, and luckily he did connect with it the way we hoped. Liam was the first part of it, he signed up on that first draft, and as far as Lesley is concerned, she was someone who is in demand for many, many years, and we always wanted to work with. And we knew Liam was a fan as well, so obviously the dynamic between those two would be very important, and initially we thought we weren’t going to be able to get Lesley because she had quite a long theatre commitment, but we were able to find a window, a very short window in the middle of that, and all the plans kind-of aligned.
d’Sa: We felt that they were very similar sorts of actors and that proved to be. They’re both actors that you believe every moment that they’re on screen. They share a sense of humor, they’re both low-key, they’re not starry people, there were no egos to contend with on set. Just very intelligent people and so we had a feeling they could gel on set and create this beautiful chemistry and we were thrilled to find that they effortlessly, it seems managed to create not just their own character, but this other entity that they hold between them, this thirty-year marriage, to be able to conjure that, go into that depth in a relationship, is something that few actors would’ve been able to achieve so beautifully.
disappointment: You talked about the honesty of the script, I think that in a film that is so heavily based in dialogue, honesty is the key to believability. How did you work with the actors to emphasize the honesty of the script?
d’Sa: Well, as you say, it starts with the script. This is a script based on events that happened in the writer’s life, Owen McCafferty and his wife Peggy went through a similar year to this when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, so we start from a place of authenticity and that was always one of our goals in making this film. We wanted it to feel not like a sensationalized, overdramatized piece of storytelling, but something that was true to those small moments that build a journey like this. These actors understood the tone of the piece immediately, through the writing, through our conversations. Everyone shared that desire to make the piece feel as real as possible. There’s a lovely tone in it as well which incorporates not only looking at the tougher things these characters go through that we can all go through in life, but also the lightness and warmth and humor that we all often instinctively try to bring to these sorts of events. Every time we are working on a project, we focus a lot on the tone, and that has to carry through performance, that has to carry through the way we dress the set, it has to carry through the pace of the piece, the way the camera operates. And I think we all got to the same understanding.
disappointment: In addition to being this story about a woman who is dealing with this diagnosis, this is also the story of a caretaker who is equally affected. Why do you think this story is important for showing both sides of the diagnosis?
d’Sa: We started from the point of understanding it as a love story. Love stories often explore the threat of what might separate this couple. And in this case, what’s threatening to separate them is this illness. And as much as they want to go through this journey together, inevitably what is happening is in only Joan’s body, so their experiences are completely separate. And so the story is really about something that pulls them apart and how they struggle to come together and in doing so, we’re telling a story about the vital connection between these two people that keeps them both afloat.
disappointment: Ordinary Love releases on Valentine’s Day, and while it’s not something that you would normally expect to be a date night type of film, I think there’s something very romantic about it. How do you hope that audiences will fall in love with this film?
d’Sa: The thing that stood out to us about this film was that it was a love story and a really unexpected, unusual love story with some real insight into relationships. Unusual in that it’s not really about the start or the end of a romantic relationship, but what happens at the heart of it. So for us, it feels like the perfect time to release this film because it is a beautiful love story between two people. It’s a middle-aged love story, which is something we rarely see and about a couple who are not bored with each other, they’re not looking elsewhere, but they still have this very vital relationship. They make each other laugh, they have plenty to say to each other, you know there’s a real electricity between this couple. But at the same time, the story isn’t sentimental about how we deal with each other when we’re in that kind of intimate relationship. This feels like the perfect movie to see if you want to explore the themes of love on Valentine’s weekend.
Ordinary Love is now playing in theaters.