Ordinary Love




Outstanding acting in a film of rare quality.

Ordinary Love  

Lesley Manville and Liam Neeson


Lisa Barros D'Sa and Glenn Leyburn are an Irish couple who make films together and this is their third feature. Their films do not appear with great frequency - this one follows Cherryland (2009) and Good Vibrations (2012) - but they make up for that with their quality and this third venture is probably their best yet. At its centre is that most reliable of actresses Lesley Manville and, splendid though she has been in the past, her performance here reaches new heights. It would be both appalling and surprising if she does not win awards for it.


Manville's role in Ordinary Love, a film set in Belfast, is that of Joan Thompson who is married to Tom (Liam Neeson). It has been a notably happy marriage, but also one marked by tragedy as we realise when   we learn that they had a daughter who has died. Now it looks as though tragedy - or something like it - could strike again since, early on in the film, Joan, having noticed a lump on one of her breasts, is advised to go for  a hospital check-up and it is at once confirmed that some degree of cancer is involved.


The reference in the film's title to love is not misleading because Owen McCafferty's adroit screenplay offers a portrait of a deeply loving relationship shown without any sentimentality and with a perfect sense of how to express a bond so familiar that it lies under the surface and is always there even when, in one unnerving scene, Joan's illness results in a violent flare-up between her and Tom. That love is important to the film, but even so as a narrative its chief concern is to chart with great sensitivity what it means to have to undergo treatment for cancer. In the circumstances it is fitting that Ordinary Love is almost a two-hander with Manville's magnificent performance backed up quite admirably by Neeson who shares her avoidance of histrionics. The only aspect that could be considered a sub-plot lies in the fact that in the hospital they happen to encounter a gay couple (David Wilmot and Amit Shah). The latter are going through an even worse experience because in their case the cancer diagnosis that one of them has received is terminal.


I am not quite sure why the filmmakers opted to use the 'Scope format which sometimes seems ill-suited to the intimate subject matter, but this film comes close to perfection even if the subject matter may mean that its commercial appeal is limited.  I believe that McCafferty was driven to write this piece on account of his wife being in the same situation that Joan is in here and his need to share the experience was doubtless key to this film being at once so honest and so sensitive. He is subtle too in showing how the situation depicted leads to a character development of a positive kind. But the most important fact to stress is that if you miss this film you will be missing one of the best acting performances of the year.




Cast: Lesley Manville, Liam Neeson, Amit Shah, David Wilmot, Melanie Clark Pullen, Esh Alladi, Geraldine McAlinden.


Dir Lisa Barros D'Sa and Glenn Leyburn, Pro David Holmes, Brian J. Falconer and Piers Tempest, Screenplay Owen McCafferty, Ph Piers McGrail, Pro Des Nigel Pollock, Ed Nick Emerson, Music David Holmes and Brian Irvine, Costumes Susan Scott.


Out Of Orbit/Canderblinks Film and Music/Head Gear Films/Kreo Films FZ-Universal Pictures.
92 mins. UK. 2019. Rel: 6 December 2019. Cert. 12A.