Ordinary Love Is A Tough Watch

Liam Neeson (left) and Lesley Manville (right) star in directors Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Layburn’s ORDINARY LOVE, a Bleecker Street release. Credit: Bleecker Street

Ordinary Love is about a couple dealing with a cancer diagnosis years into their marriage and the tensions that come with it.

Cancer is something that hits close to home for many families.  If your own immediate family hasn’t faced the challenge, there’s a high chance that it’s been faced by a cousin, aunt, or uncle.  Maybe even a grandparent.  The BRCA gene is one that runs high in the Jewish community.  It’s one of my own worst fears as a result of coming out as transgender.  I haven’t been tested but there’s the what-if that holds a lot of fear.  If you watch The Bold Type, the subject of breast cancer has been a recurring storyline.  I say all this in advance of what I’m about to write about the film, of course.

First things first, Ordinary Love is emotionally exhausting.  If you’re familiar with this disease, you know how brutal it can be to watch loved ones go through it.  About 45-60 minutes into the film is when we start to see the hair falling out.  Sorry to say but this is when I found it necessary to leave the theater just to catch my breath.  Like I said earlier, it’s not an easy watch.

For all of the things about the film that are emotionally exhausting, we get a different Liam Neeson for a change.  It’s totally refreshing to see Neeson playing a caring husband for a change.  He’s not out there chasing bad guys after taking a relative.  Instead, he’s there caring for his wife while she’s battling cancer.  This is in’t the first challenge for Tom (Liam Neeson) and Joan (Lesley Manville) as their daughter was killed some time earlier.  The tragedy in their lives does lead to a bonding moment with another cancer patient, Peter (David Wilmot).  It just so happens that Peter, now suffering terminal cancer, taught their daughter Debbie in school.

Ordinary Love isn’t just about the love between Tom and Joan.  It’s about everything that they deal with over the course of a year.  Something that screenwriter Owen McCafferty knows from personal experience.  When one knows that the film is about cancer, it isn’t going to be easy to watch.  It’s only after the diagnosis in which the film goes into the more brutal territory of what patients deal with.  On the one hand, we have Tom who wants to be by Joan’s side.  On the other hand, there’s Steve (Amit Shah).  Peter’s partner is uncomfortable in hospitals and yet there’s a nice moment later on between Tom and Peter in the cafeteria.

If I cannot say it enough, Ordinary Love is emotionally exhausting.  Regardless, the film is personal and the writing is cathartic.

DIRECTORS:  Lisa Barros D’Sa & Glenn Leyburn
CAST:  Lesley Manville, Liam Neeson, David Wilmot, Amit Shah

Bleecker Street opens Ordinary Love in theaters on February 14, 2019. Grade: 3.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.