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Non-Review Review: Ordinary Love

Ordinary Love offers a charming and affecting glimpse inside a marriage.

Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville play Tom and Joan, an ageing couple enjoying their autumn years together. One evening, Joan discovers a lump in her left breast. As a result, the couple find themselves navigating a precarious emotional rollercoaster as Joan deals with the resulting diagnosis and Tom struggles to hold it all together long enough that he might be his wife’s rock. Along the way, the couple try to find some balance in their lives, to maintain a delicate equilibrium inside a marriage that has already been strained by trauma unimaginable.

Food for love.
And also just food.

The “cancer” subgenre is a strange thing, encompassing movies such as Me and Earl and the Dying Girl or My Sister’s Keeper. These sorts of movies, and others about terminal diseases or afflictions, have to walk a fine line. Cancer is so common an ailment that such loss and such trauma is almost a universal experience. Movies like Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and My Sister’s Keeper can often struggle to capture the depth of emotion associated with such a diagnosis without slipping into cynical exploitation.

Ordinary Love works so well because of the humanity and empathy at its core. As the title implies, and as Tom outlines during one of the film’s most moving scenes, Ordinary Love understands that this sort of trauma is so horrifying because of the way it intrudes into the familiar and the safe. Cancer is a disease that turns a body against itself, spreading and growing inside the body that a person has known since birth. Ordinary Love captures that intrusion of the unknown into the familiar, offering a beautiful and moving sketch of a marriage that feels lived-in.

A couple of delights.

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