It sadly affects us all. An ordinary couple faces a life-changing cancer diagnosis in the new drama, "Ordinary Love." And while the story of Tom (Liam Neeson) and Joan (Lesley Manville) is perfectly relatable to anyone of the 2 million Americans who are diagnosed with cancer each year - or to the millions more who have or know someone who has been diagnosed or lost to cancer in their lifetimes - this movie finds power in the mundane, ordinary but meaningful moments that it focuses on.
Tom and Joan are just like any other aging couple. They spend a typical night curled up on the couch, watching TV, and playfully bickering with one another. Tom is nagged for wanting a beer, and he pokes fun at Joan for her choice of words. All is, well, ordinary when it comes to Tom and Joan. They're not spies, they don't have secrets, and they’re otherwise not your normal subjects of a movie. But that all changes when Joan finds a lump on her breast.
From there, "Ordinary Love" hits all of the beats you'd expect it to, but Neeson and especially Manville are so great in their performances that it makes every "ordinary" scene feel extraordinary. Tom is in denial and tells Joan not to worry until they have something to worry about. They fret over the unknown, trying to stay focused only on what is known. As the news sets in, they try to cope the best they can. Tom tries to tell Joan that she's not going through this alone, but the stark reality of the situation is that Joan is, in fact, the only one with cancer.
These moments and feelings are more than familiar for anyone who has experienced cancer first-hand, or second-hand. Joan starts off her chemo-therapy as the new patient, who gets advice from some of the other patients who have been at this for a bit longer. She soon "graduates" and finds herself giving words of wisdom to patients that come after her.
She befriends an old teacher of her daughter, Peter (David Wilmot), whom she recognizes as she sits in a cancer treatment waiting room. They bond, a fraternal bond the kind that one knows only when you've gone through war or hell together. Cancer is certainly hell. As much as Tom tries to "be there" for Joan, he will never know exactly what Joan is going through the way that Peter does.
The sadness of Tom and Joan's situation is magnified when we learn that their daughter died years earlier. It's never revealed how or why. In other words, it's just a part of their life, and they are now living with the fall-out. Much like cancer.
If you can't tell by now, "Ordinary Love" is not in any way a "feel good" movie, but it most certainly will give you the feels. You will feel uncomfortable, especially if you're like Neeson's character, a person who would rather not accept the truth when it's not the sort of truth you want to believe in. It's straight-forward in its delivery, and the performances are top-notch. The film probably doesn't cover any new ground when it comes to movies about cancer, but the moments that it stops on, and takes the time to illuminate, make "Ordinary Love" anything but ordinary.
Genre: Drama, Romance.
Run Time: 1 hour 32 minutes.
Starring: Liam Neeson, Lesley Manville, David Wilmot.
Directed by Lisa Barros D'Sa and Glenn Leyburn ("Good Vibrations," "Cherrybomb").
"Ordinary Love" opens in theaters on Friday, February 28th, 2020.
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