A relationship is strengthened in its undoing in Ira Sachs' heartfelt but contrived Love Is Strange. Continuing from Keep the Lights On, the New Yorker's latest film concerns a gay couple in Sachs' home city, whose personal complications arise not from one another, this time, but from influences beyond their control. It's thus easier for this more seasoned couple to adapt, and Love Is Strange is a cheerier film than his last. This couple is forced apart when employment issues strike and send them out of their apartment to reside in separate locations; the struggles they face relate less to their distance than to the situations in which they find themselves, either detached and out-of-touch with their new housemates or coping with becoming a burden to them. Sachs is an ace with character, and most expertly fashions scenarios in which none of the human participants are right, yet their reasonings seem sound. The addictive disharmony of co-existence with people and the futility of co-existence with the institutions to which we are enslaved are themes. There's too great a reliance on them, though, and Sachs enslaves himself to these constructs - the film is much too neat as a result, too cosy in its depiction of relationships as being easily-identifiable entities. The central relationship is gratifyingly untouched by such forced development - in isolating his leads from each other, Sachs conveys the intensity of their bond, as they unite intermittently for touching scenes of true emotional beauty, and actors John Lithgow and Alfred Molina excel in expressing the precise character of a relationship so long of tooth and so full of heart.