In movies, love is often all rose petals, kisses in the rain and clichéd grand gestures. Not here. Instead, co-directors Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn give us a tender drama which comes alive in its quietest, most undemonstrative moments. A bit like the real thing.
Tom (Liam Neeson) and Joan (Lesley Manville) lead a simple life in retirement, following the death of their only child. Their lives are intentionally undramatic. Joan adding worcester sauce to their evening soup is about as exciting as it gets. Then she notices a lump in her left breast, and we all know what’s coming.
This first screenplay from playwright Owen McCafferty isn’t entirely cliché-free – a graveside speech from Tom rings a little hollow – but it’s scrupulous in showing that love isn’t all sonnets and bouquets. Through Manville and Neeson’s considered performances, we see the way that Tom and Joan’s love is expressed in small gestures: they forgive each other’s irritating habits; Joan allows that extra beer Tom shouldn’t have; Tom teases Joan while shaving her head after chemo with ‘I never really liked your hair.’
Don’t expect dramatic fireworks – very little happens narratively – but prepare for this quiet film to tiptoe into your heart. You’ll find yourself hanging on Manville’s typically sensitive and ultimately heartbreaking performance, and appreciating the tender side of Neeson. It all adds up to a melancholic portrait of real love that lingers.