Thursday, 17 July 2008

Married Life

Directed by Ira Sachs
Screenplay by Ira Sachs & Oren Moverman

A drama examining love and what it’s like to be married… it seems, well – serious, hardly promising an entertaining time at the movies.  But this one shouldn’t be written off.  Director Ira Sachs has cleverly combined serious thoughts on long term relationships with humorous situations, and set them in the late forties, against a backdrop of understated glamour.

The key to the film’s success is the over the top nature of the story.  Sachs, who also co-wrote the screenplay, says people always smile at the one line synopsis, and he’s right: the film follows middle-aged Harry, head over heels for his much younger mistress, as he plots his wife’s murder in order to spare her the pain of their marriage breaking up!

By rights we should dislike him, but Harry Allan (Chris Cooper) is the wistful hero of the piece.  He’s a gentle middle-aged man dreaming of a great romantic love, which he imagines he has found with the beautiful Kay (Rachel McAdams.)  Although he believes true happiness lies with Kay, genuine regard for the feelings of his down to earth wife of many years, Pat (Patricia Clarkson) stops him just short of leaving her.

Caught between the two women and not wanting to hurt anyone, Harry breaks the news to his fun loving best friend, Richard (Pierce Brosnan) and urges him to get to know Kay.  Curious about her hold on Harry, and attracted to her himself, bachelor Richard needs little encouragement.  As the characters combine, we learn the secrets they’re all keeping, so when Harry comes up with his plan to “save” Pat, complications definitely ensue.

From the first bar of the jaunty opening credits, the film settles into the period.  The impeccable forties costumes, sets and props are especially notable because they could easily have become distracting showpieces, but instead draw us in and form such a fully realised world behind the actions of the characters that it seems an absolutely modern story.

Richard as narrator of the film sets the tone with a playful voice-over, not allowing us to dip too far into the heavier philosophies the story throws up.  While it’s definitely a drama, the comic touches make the film laugh out loud funny in spots.  All the characters are well realised, so there’s no predictable outcome – you may find yourself switching sides as you discover more about the characters, rather like real life relationships. 

Yes, Married Life is a grown-up movie, but the theme of the film is the human longing to love and be loved, and the crazy things we sometimes do to make it happen – and what is more movie-worthy than that?

This review was originally written for an online magazine, and is republished with permission.

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