Lisa Barros D’Sa & Glenn Leyburn, the directing duo behind ‘Good Vibrations’, are back with new drama ‘Ordinary Love’ which was filmed entirely in Northern Ireland. The film stars Lesley Manville and Liam Neeson as a married couple, Joan and Tom. The narrative focuses on how the couple deal with Joan’s diagnosis of breast cancer and their subsequent struggle through the illness.
The original title for this film was ‘Normal People’ and an apt title that would have been, alas it wasn’t to be due to the upcoming adaptation of Sally Rooney’s popular novel of the same name. Nonetheless, Joan and Tom are just that, normal, and as a result audiences will immediately relate to both of them. Owen McCafferty’s screenplay is excellent, the dialogue he’s written for these characters is spot on. This is established from the very first line in the film and the authenticity of these characters and their conversations is never a worry thanks to his thoughtful writing. This, along with the abundance of Northern Irish landmarks will have local viewers effortlessly engaging with the film but ‘Ordinary Love’ has a remarkably universal quality to it. At its core it’s a film about a couple who love each other and it captures so many short and simple moments between them, but it’s these moments that make their lives shared together so wonderful.
The performances from Manville and Neeson are tremendous. Manville gives her all to this role, wholeheartedly immersing herself in her character. She excels in the moments of emotional anguish, tearing on the heartstrings of the audience. However, it’s often in the more subtle of her expressions in which she impresses the most, conveying so much without even uttering a single word at times. She’s an absolute joy to watch from start to finish and the same can be said for her chemistry and relationship with her on screen husband. Neeson proves here that he’s still got his dramatic chops, there’s not a kidnapped daughter or a hijacked plane in sight yet he still commands the screen with confidence. He showcases his special ability as a actor as he portrays a man striving to do his best for his wife in the most awful of circumstances. The pair have an instant on screen spark and will have you laughing and crying in equal measures.
The deep emotional quality of this film comes as a result of these exquisite performances as well as McCafferty’s screenplay, however the directorial touches of Barros D’Sa and Leyburn enhance this even further. Their framing and shooting of Joan and Tom’s family home is fantastic. This allows the narrative to really breathe also letting the audience reflect on the events of the film as the characters do too. Furthermore, the way in which they show the passing of time is so beautiful and understated, a quality that the film as a whole possesses throughout too.
As a result ‘Ordinary Love’ manages to bring to the screen a vital awareness to breast cancer and an insight into what’s involved in the treatment of this illness. It perfectly balances this with its narrative focusing on the life long love that Joan and Tom have for each other and keeping this at its heart. Ordinary in many ways yes, but extraordinary in so many others this latest film from Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn’s is a masterclass in the authentic storytelling of real, everyday people and it’s not to be missed.
Written by Hamish Calvert
STAR RATING –★★★★★
Question: What is your favourite Lesley Manville film performance?
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Thanks to Movie House Cinemas for screening access