Ordinary Love is a superb drama with slight notes of ice-breaking wit. It’s orchestrated along the same lines as 2017 Oscar nominee The Big Sick or last year’s Netflix sleeper Paddleton (both of which, funnily enough, co-star Ray Romano but I digress), only the premise of a middle-aged married couple coming to terms with an alarming cancer diagnosis is played, as expected, a bit more sullen.
Within the course of a year, movie goers steadily observe the relationship between Tom (Liam Neeson) and Joan (Lesley Manville). Though the film needs thoughtful writing and direction (all provided by screenwriter Owen McCafferty and Good Vibrations’ filmmaking duo Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn), much of the film is carried by the masterclass performances by Neeson and Manville. The actors are given plenty of nuanced silences to prepare for the worse and explore thereafter – preceding the discovery of Joan’s breast cancer and living with their next chapter.
The leads are also given room to characterize themselves during intimate conversations, disagreements, and reflections on the loss of their daughter (from other circumstances). We see Joan try and muster through procedures, but also become enlightened by encouraging small talk with other patients. Meanwhile, Tom’s frustrated stubbornness renders his emotions as he comes to terms with the misfortune of losing another loved one.
As any movie dealing with health issues along with the conflicted universal emotions that follow, Ordinary Love doesn’t come as an easy recommendation. But, people shouldn’t be persuaded away from this great film. It reminds us of how powerful simplified filmmaking paired with seasoned actors and rich writing can be.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie