LFF 2019: Ordinary Love
Lesley Manville and Liam Neeson give career-best performances in this tale of a middle-aged couple’s brush with cancer
On the surface, there is nothing cinematic about Ordinary Love – this tale of a middle-aged couple’s brush with cancer is one that would live or die with its actors. That said, co-directors Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn meticulously compose each shot, filling each with beauty in the mundane. This graceful eye creates a visually stunning picture out of the English suburbs and allows Joan and Tom’s interactions – from the trivial supermarket bickering over juices and beers to the sometimes hilarious, sometimes heart-wrenching confrontations with mortality – to take centre stage. Thanks to Owen McCafferty’s script and two career-best turns, the familiarity, pettiness and overwhelming gentleness ring entirely true.
Lesley Manville is, unsurprisingly, mesmeric. In her hands, Joan’s poised, gracious exterior – the veneer she presents to the world – is never entirely lost, even as cracks begin to show. This mastery of her craft makes Ordinary Love firmly Manville’s film, but Liam Neeson’s vulnerable turn is a welcome change from his action routine. With these two veterans in charge, the old married couple axiom is entirely credible.
Ordinary Love makes the everyday idiosyncrasies of this long-married pair wholly captivating – it would be a very enjoyable film were viewers merely watching Joan and Tom go through their lives, cancer ordeal aside. As it stands, the film becomes a perfectly judged testament to lives shared and shattered, reckoning with individual and collective grief with grace, humour and honesty. Without giving away the ending, any other conclusion to this tale would feel false and forced.
Ordinary Love had its UK premiere at London Film Festival and is released in the UK by Universal on 6 Dec