Ordinary Love

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Ordinary Love Movie Poster Image
Intimate, well-acted drama explores marriage, illness, loss.
  • R
  • 2020
  • 92 minutes

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Explores "sickness and health" part of marital vows, the support and love needed to make it through illness, the way that profound grief and loss can change the nature of a relationship, how being with an encouraging and loving partner can get you through even the darkest situations. Themes include compassion, empathy, perseverance.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Tom and Joan have different personalities, and they're not perfect, but they also have a solid, honest marriage full of love. They can bicker, even argue, but remain devoted, loyal to each other. Joan is thoughtful, kind to fellow patients as she deals with cancer. Tom takes care of Joan throughout her treatment.


Discussions of an adult child's death. A fish dies, and Tom flushes it down the toilet. A friend dies from cancer. Sadness/stress.


Tom and Joan hold hands, hug, kiss. In one scene, they make love in their bed; it's brief, not graphic. They discuss whether Tom will miss Joan's breasts after her mastectomy. Brief nonsexual nudity while Joan undergoes scans/testing.


Infrequent: "s--t," "bloody," "idiot," "stupid," "arse."


Tom and Joan drive a Volvo, which is visible in several scenes.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Tom drinks beer on a few occasions. They buy beer at the market and have wine for dinner. Adults smoke cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ordinary Love is a drama about a long-married couple, Joan and Tom (Lesley Manville and Liam Neeson), as they deal with the frightening reality of Joan's breast cancer diagnosis. It slowly becomes clear that cancer isn't the first tragedy to strike their family. Tom and Joan kiss, and there's one quick, nongraphic sex scene, as well as brief nonsexual nudity while Joan is undergoing tests and treatment. Language includes the occasional "bloody" and "s--t," and there are a few scenes of Tom and Joan drinking wine with dinner or Tom drinking beer. Some conversations (and arguments) center around potentially upsetting aspects of Tom and Joan's past and the lingering grief they feel over it. Joan is shown suffering from the side effects of her treatment (including nausea, vomiting, and exhaustion). A friend who's also in treatment doesn't survive, and there are conversations about mortality between Tom, Joan, their friend, and his partner. The movie shows the support and love needed to make it through an illness and how being with a loving partner can get you through even the darkest situations. Themes include compassion, empathy, and perseverance.

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What's the story?

In ORDINARY LOVE, married 60-somethings Tom (Liam Neeson) and Joan (Lesley Manville) live a quiet, comfortably predictable life together in Britain until they discover that Joan has breast cancer. As Joan undergoes treatment, she finds that she recognizes a fellow patient: her daughter's former school teacher, Peter (David Wilmot), whose own cancer is terminal. Audiences learn about a tragedy in Tom and Joan's past, and the story shows how the couple deals with the unexpected difficulties of confronting mortality, sickness, grief, and loss.

Is it any good?

Manville and Neeson's superb central performances elevate this quiet, intimate portrayal of a couple trying to survive the second devastating tragedy of their marriage. Directors Lisa Barros D'Sa and Glenn Leyburn, working from a script by Owen McCafferty, manage to create a love story around cancer that isn't melodramatic. The acting is beautifully nuanced and evocative, with the smallest of smirks and quirks expressing so much that goes on between long-married couples. Manville and Neeson are on equal footing as performers, bringing out the best in each other. After years of Neeson playing archetypal angry fathers in revenge thrillers, it's refreshing to see him as a husband who's utterly devoted to his strong, capable wife. And Manville, who's legitimately wonderful in everything, is luminous here as a woman facing the possibility of her own death.

Wilmot is a great supporting player -- his Peter is a kind, gentle man who knows his days are limited but wants to make sure his love, Steve (Amit Shah), can move on with his life. Aside from those two men and a few other doctors, fellow patients, and caregivers, there isn't much of a cast in Ordinary Love. This movie is all about Joan and Tom, and luckily Manville and Neeson are fine enough actors to carry the duo's domestic drama through an entire season in this couple's life. The movie reminds viewers that while cancer (or any chronic illness) affects an individual in a profoundly singular, even lonely, way, it also completely changes the life and scope of that person's partners and loved ones.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why we're drawn to stories of dealing with and/or overcoming sickness. How relatable is Ordinary Love?

  • Who, if anyone, is a role model in the film? What character strengths do they display? How are compassion, empathy, and perseverance important to the story?

  • Discuss the various ways marriage is depicted in movies. What makes the central marriage in Ordinary Love a strong one? What's believable about the way the two people interact?

  • How does the movie address the topic of grief and loss? What role does humor play? Why is humor shown to be a necessary part of dealing with sickness?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love drama and romance

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