Directed by: Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn
Premise: A middle aged woman (Lesley Manville) is diagnosed with breast cancer. With the help of her husband (Liam Neeson) she undergoes treatment.
What Works: The greatest asset of Ordinary Love is the relationship between the husband and wife. This is a domestic slice-of-life story dressed up as a disease narrative and it’s a nice and likable movie that is appealing in its good heartedness. It’s a simple premise and the “ordinary love” of the film’s title is the devotion these characters have for each other as they get through the grind of cancer treatment. Lesley Manville and Liam Neeson are convincing as a pair who have been together for a long time. Manville and Neeson are given some glib dialogue and they are an engaging couple. We want to see them get through this and continue to live out their lives together. While the movie is about the couple as a unit, the cancer treatment gives each of them something to do and they are defined by their choices. Manville gets most of the big acting moments because she is the one with cancer but Neeson is also given moments that illustrate his character and each actor brings subtly and authenticity to their scenes. Ordinary Love also gets the difficulty of facing cancer. The movie portrays the anxiety of the diagnosis as well as the exhaustion of chemotherapy as well as the way the experience frays the couple’s nerves. Because Manville and Neeson’s characters are so likable it hurts to see them fighting.
What Doesn’t: Tales of illness and families working their way through it are nothing new and Ordinary Love does not have anything new to show us about cancer or aging. The film works because its lead characters are so vivid but there isn’t much to it. The relationship is never under any serious threat—we’re never led to believe that they might break up—and early on it becomes evident that the cancer is not terminal. As a result there’s not much at stake in the film. It is gradually revealed that the couple had a daughter who is now dead. Nothing is done with that and the film squanders an opportunity to address mortality and what it means to survive tragedy.
DVD extras: None.
Bottom Line: Ordinary Love is a likable movie about a couple confronting cancer. The movie doesn’t add much to the genre of illness narratives but Ordinary Love does have a strong pair of central performances by Lesley Manville and Liam Neeson that makes this film worthwhile.
Episode: #804 (June 14, 2020)