The Lovers, from writer-director Azazel Jacobs, is a marriage comedy so unflashy and melancholic, it might easily be overlooked by audiences hooked on a contemporary high laugh-per-minute ratio. While the film may be more Bergman than Apatow, it offers memorable rewards, not the least of which are the performances by its stars, Tracy Letts and Debra Winger.
Shot largely indoors in an unnamed California suburb, The Lovers has no visual pizzaz — it could work well as a stage play — but the actors bring their A-games. Letts plays Michael, an improbable philanderer, with a perpetual stubble and an ample paunch. shirt. Winger, the earthy former Hollywood star who turned her back on Hollywood a couple of decades ago, plays Mary, a more tragic character, a woman caught between residual compassion for her spouse and a desire for more in life.
As a couple, they’re in a deep rut. They avoid long conversations with each other, work routine jobs that bore them yet constantly find excuses to stay late at work. Michael sees dance instructor, Lucy (Melora Walters) while Mary is having a relationship with a writer, Robert (Aiden Gillan).
Neither of these affairs are casual flings. Both Michael and Mary have made repeated promises to leave their marriage though, for some reason,, they keep avoiding a showdown. Both use the same excuse: Their college-age son, Joel (Tyler Ross) is coming home for a visit. After that, they say, they’ll finally cut the knot.
Then, after an accidental half-asleep nuzzle in bed one morning, things take a small but irreversible turn, like a of glimpse of sunlight after several years of rain. Michael and Mary discover they are attracted to each other again. Soon, they’re are cheating on their lovers to be with each other.
While the film never devolves into a door-slamming farce, it has moments that are wincingly funny and, rarer still, even wise. The notion here is that love, no matter how blocked, never really fades. Instead, it gets redirected, sometimes along surprising new channels.
The Lovers, written and directed by Arazel Jacobs, stars Tracy Lett and Debra Winger, is showing at the CIneplex Odeon and VIP theatres.
Liam Lacey is a former film critic for The Globe and Mail, as well as contributor to various other media outlets over the past 37 years.. He recently returned to Canada from Spain because he forgot about the weather