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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.
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?
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?
- In theaters: February 14, 2020
- On DVD or streaming: May 5, 2020
- Cast: Lesley Manville, Liam Neeson, David Wilmot
- Directors: Lisa Barros D'Sa, Glenn Leyburn
- Studio: Bleecker Street
- Genre: Drama
- Character strengths: Compassion, Empathy, Perseverance
- Run time: 92 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: brief sexuality/nudity
- Last updated: May 4, 2020
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