Ordinary Love

Love doesn't give up

In Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn’s intimate drama Ordinary Love, health-conscious husband and wife Tom (Liam Neeson) and Joan (Lesley Manville) delight in their evening stroll – a contented retired couple walking the same path. Then, Joan finds a lump in her breast and the pair gradually realize some roads must be walked alone. He belongs in the world of the healthy; she’s increasingly more comfortable among the sick.

Poster for the Lesley Manville - Liam Neeson drama Ordinary LoveTheir lives were already hermetic; if they ever had friends, they don’t appear to now. Yet, they’re plenty of company for themselves, two people who tease each other with genuine affection – otherwise, when chemotherapy claims her hair, Neeson would never get away with the line “I never really liked your hair to begin with”.

Ordinary Love has space to notice the details, like when Tom chooses to drink tea in the hospital cafeteria rather than hold Joan’s hand upstairs. A disagreement over whether to have dinner at home or go out for Thai is a micro-drama reflecting their diverging approach to illness. She wants to pretend everything is ordinary; he wants to do something.

The film is beautifully lit and artfully composed – the only colours are blue, gray, brown and, occasionally, the shocking ultraviolet light of medical equipment prodding Joan’s body. The film’s score is melodic and insistent, knowing when to fall away into silence to let the audience appreciate Neeson and Manville’s superb chemistry. When she quietly looks at him – whether in anger or affection – it’s beautiful. Seeing two characters who deeply love each other makes it even more heartbreaking to hear Joan sigh “We’re all just on our own.”

– Amy Nicholson, Variety

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