Review by Sean Boelman
Driven by breathtaking performances by Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville, Ordinary Love is a new romantic drama with an unorthodox approach. With a subtle but nuanced storyline, the film may not be what one would expect, but it is one of the most affecting movies in recent memory nevertheless.
The film tells the story of a couple that find themselves in turmoil after one of them receives a diagnosis that threatens to tear them apart. Inspired by real events in the writer’s life, the movie doesn’t lean into melodrama as many other cancer dramas do, instead opting to focus on the effects that the diagnosis has on the daily lives of these characters.
Because of this, the film doesn’t play out in the most exciting way, but this deliberately subtle approach allows the movie to pack an even greater emotional punch. With impressively lively dialogue (some of which contains a surprising deal of wit), the film doesn’t have the soul-crushing bleakness that one would expect from a movie about this topic. Rather, the film is often quite beautiful.
Part of what makes this film so impressive is that it is not just the story of a woman who must deal with her diagnosis. The movie is just as much her husband’s story as it is hers, showing how it is not only the person with the illness that is affected. Very few films do as good of a job as Ordinary Love at showing the perspective of a caregiver, and that helps it stand out.
However, even beyond the two leads of the movie, there is an important third character, in a way, and that is the relationship between them. Just as much detail, if not more, is put into developing the marriage of the couple as is given to each of them on an individual basis. The result is what feels like one of the most unexpectedly romantic films in a long time.
Neeson and Manville have great chemistry together, and they are a significant part of what makes the movie work. The best scenes are those in which the two stars are on screen at the same time, feeding off of each other’s energy. As with any real-life relationship, the one depicted on screen has its ups and downs, and Neeson and Manville portray them in a way that is completely believable.
Directors Lisa Barros d’Sa and Glenn Leyburn bring a visual style to the film that is undeniably unique. While the movie is shot in a way that is not particularly flashy and is meant to emphasize the performance, there is still some very elegant camerawork from Piers McGrail and detailed production design from Nigel Pollock. These small but pivotal decisions really help give the film a greater sense of character.
Unlike what the title seems to suggest, Ordinary Love is far from the ordinary romance. Thanks to great performances and inspired direction, Owen McCafferty’s phenomenal script (which likely would have been in awards talk had it been released last year) is brought to life in glorious fashion.
Ordinary Love is now playing in theaters.