The Lovers begins with our main characters both interacting with their side engagements. Michael, lays on a bed to console the passionate ballet dance teacher Lucy (Melora Walters). Meanwhile, Mary hides behind a tree outside of work, as her dark and mysterious lover Robert (Aiden Gillen) stands idly by, attempting to convince her to spend time with him later. It's clear, the planning and scheming these two do behind one another's back has become a daily routine. They make excuses such as, “I'm working late again” or “I'm having drinks with a friend”, attempting to keep their feelings in tact, although at heart, they likely know what's going on. Each day they meet with their other interests and promise that they will leave their marriages behind, while the other lovers that make them extremely happy. That is, till the roles become reversed, and the affairs become stale like left out bread, and the marriage regains that passion like the cover of a romance novel.
In many respects, a movie such as this would be deemed a rom-com, or one the parents can go to see. While I agree, this is more of an adult film with a capital A, director Azazel Jacobs (Terri) has a confidence that shows, rising the mature material to a level of strength. With his cinematographer Tobias Datum framing the camera perfectly, Azazel captures the married couple in states of cemented separation, often leaving a gap between one another on a couch or bed. It helps to have two actors that deserve praise for their nuanced and tactile work. Letts, a legend of the Steppenwolf stage, has a witty demeanor that makes you want to laugh or later cry. And Winger, the Urban Cowboy star displays such maturity, beauty, and a fearlessness in this role. She is a mother and wife, but her character is not defined by that, in fact her affair shows a woman who stopped putting up with her husbands shit. I hope Winger earns at least a Spirit Award Nomination here.
The third act is when the arrival of the couples son Joel (Tyler Ross) and his girlfriend Erin (Jessica Sula) home, brings the drama to a head. To his surprise, his parents are showing signs of love and affection, something he never knew was possible. In fact, he's downright confused, seeing this new found love as an act to just impress. This may not be true, but the family must face the eventual elephants in the home, unless the other lovers force the couple to either shape up or ship out. The families confrontation with the situation will keep you guessing, bouncing you up and down, hoping and wondering, if the marriage in this family can be saved. The unpredictable nature of the film is one of the many fantastic aspects of it all.
It's because of all these reasons that The Lovers is a beautiful film. Jacobs tells a story that feels quirky and refreshing, telling an honest tale about a dwindling marriage. My only major complaint is a slow start, but throughout, he paces our emotions with a waltzing score from Mandy Hoffman, that plays like a dance of love, including a moment where Letts impressively plays the piano. The natural feel of a staged play approach works perfectly into the Winger and Letts' wheelhouse, displaying marriage as the difficult, often mature topic that it is. That bond can be funny, tragic, almost Shakespearian, but when it comes to The Lovers, theirs might be the greatest love of all.
3 ½ Stars
Written by: Leo Brady
MOVIE: THE LOVERS
STARRING: DEBRA WINGER; TRACY LETTS; AIDAN GILLEN; MELORA WALTERS
DIRECTED BY: AZAZEL JACOBS
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 ½ Stars (Out of 4)
It's sad to think about how love can die. A bit of evidence that proves we're all human is that our love for one another can be often shifting. It begins as a small bud of romance, growing to passion, a mutual kindness, often resilient, and sometimes dwindling when life gets in the way. In writer/director Azazel Jacobs film- The Lovers, we follow a middle-aged married couple- Mary (Debra Winger) and Michael (Tracy Letts), two people stuck in a different state of love, a stale, divided arrangement, while they are both engaged in extramarital affairs, and bonded together by sheer comfort. When the relationship is pushed to the brink, a spark rises from the ashes, in this delicate, honest, and surprisingly lovely, dark-comedy.