REVIEW: Ordinary Love

Ordinary Lovecould be mistaken as a 'another cancer film', but those who reward themselves with a visit to the cinema will experience something much more layered and cathartic. In fact, much like its title suggests, Ordinary Loveis not a cancer film, it’s a love story.

Good Vibrations directors Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn tell the story of long term couple Tom (Liam Neeson) and Joan (Lesley Manville) whose lives are suddenly halted with the news of Joan’s breast cancer.

Simply based on its premise it would seem easy for the film to drift into a heavy, sombre affair, but under the control of Barros D’Sa and Leyburn it feels immaculately manoeuvred. Barros D’Sa and Leyburn juggle the narrative with such wonderful sensitivity, delivering the right amount of pathos, followed by a huge dose of optimism and heart. The film finds its emotion in the smaller, stranger places, and hints on tragic past events without ever dwelling on them too long. The filmmakers’ sole intention is not to break hearts with a cancer story, and in some places it is this true portrayal that makes its narrative that little more heartbreaking.

While Ordinary Lovecertainly has its solemn moments, the story is brought to life by dynamic and charming lead performances from Neeson and Manville.

A lot of credit here has to go to screenwriter Owen McCafferty, whose semi-autobiographical script allows the story to hold a incredible amount of authenticity. McCafferty injects the story with such wit and personality that Neeson and Manville’s relationship feels lived-in.

This script is handled with such delightful precision, resulting in a narrative which sheds light on the varying methods of dealing with cancer and grief, while never judging any of its characters for their reaction.

Neeson reminds us of his incredible acting prowess, with an understated performance of a scared, bewildered man who puts up an assured front with his wife. He exudes a natural charm on screen that bounces off Manville at every turn, apparent in every dry joke and romantic gesture.

Manville, on the other hand, is well and truly the star of Ordinary Love. Her portrayal of a woman going through breast cancer is reserved when necessary, empathetic when needed, and harshly honest. She delivers each scene with a true authenticity - every jovial scene with Neeson is as impactful as the pivotal sombre exchanges later in the film.

And yet it is the balance between Neeson and Manville that makes Ordinary Lovetruly special. They are never defined by the awful circumstances they face together, instead their characters feel rooted in every small moment - every nickname, every walk by the water, and every remark about Neeson’s beloved goldfish. The threat of breast cancer certainly tests the pair, resulting in an explosive bed-ridden Manville exclaiming that it is her cancer, not theirs, but they never really feel close to breaking.

At a brief 92-minute run-time, Ordinary Lovenever wastes a single moment, even finding the time to pack in great supporting turns from David Wilmot and Amit Shah as a couple dealing with terminal cancer. A great friendship between Manville and Wilmot, which may seem like filler at first, serves as yet another emotionally fulfilling narrative thread which seamlessly ties in their worrying partners.

Ordinary Loveexcels in its quiet exchanges, brief glances and meaningful breaths, delivering an honest portrayal of a couple tested by the depths of a devastating illness. A masterclass in melancholy that surprises with harsh conversations, heartwarming encounters and an incredibly uplifting message footnoted with a memorable final shot that helps ensure the film will stay with you long after you’ve left the cinema screen.

Conor Murray

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