Ordinary Love - review: Blissful melancholy of (un)ordinary love

A film by Lisa Barros Ca and Glenn Leiburn, written by Owen McAferty and Pierce McGreel

The title of the film Ordinary Love, which opened the 64th edition of the Cork Film Festival, Republic of Ireland, seems to say everything, but at the same time very little about this 92-minute achievement. The story is seemingly simple and trivial - a long, harmonious life between two medieval spouses directed by people who live alone in a marital union. The magic of the film is in its layers that slowly "peel" like onions - the deeper you go into the central themes and personal battles of the main characters, the more intimate and emotional the whole viewing experience becomes.

Joan (Leslie Manville) and Tom (Liam Neeson) are "younger" retirees from Northern Ireland who seem to have everything a person would want in later life - peace, tranquillity and immense love for one another. Their days start and end the same almost every day - they have their own path that they walk every day to stay active, go shopping together and enjoy the comfort of their own home. Their relationship is as normal as any couple - they tease each other non-stop at the expense of the other, they argue that Tom should not drink that much beer and eat more healthy food, etc. An idyllic but trivial existence.


This routine turns them upside down as soon as Joan is diagnosed with breast cancer. A less directed film in these moments would surely fail because this topic is not intact, nor slightly processed. The director duo of Barros Ca and Leyburn portray the joint struggle of the two spouses quite wisely and subtly, with a heat that causes cancer to take a supporting role in the script. The fact that they themselves are together given a unique perspective on the love, suffering and perseverance that Tom feels for Joan, which makes this story universal in its power to reach thousands of people with different life experiences.

The beauty is in the details, and Pierce McGreel's camera, which vigilantly follows all the smallest grimaces of the characters, combined with the minimal music of David Holmes and Brian Irwin, allows the script to develop slowly, confidently, and create an atmosphere that is uncertain at all times, less tense but never "empty". Proof of the masterful whole of the film is the fact that the viewer slowly learns about all the tragedies that have happened in their lives, but it is never forced, on the contrary, it causes hopeful, happy melancholy.


The directors seemed to have chosen a magical pair of masterful performers in veterans Leslie Manville and Liam Neeson. The personal tragedy of the Irish actor undoubtedly contributes to the dose of realism with which he plays Tom - from the quiet and angry quarrels full of anger to the bitter tears and the look full of love that they both have while fighting over the consequences of the disease. Truly, a completely ordinary love.


Written by: Petra Brankovska/