‘A raw and sensitive insight to cancer diagnosis and treatment, remedied by a blend of stoic British stiff upper lip and Northern Irish ‘It’ll be grand’ charm.’ 

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It’s funny how many menial and sometimes tedious tasks run our everyday, yet when they are interrupted or comprised, they can shake every inch of our existence.

To some, feeding goldfish can be a joyless job – but to Tom (Liam Neeson),  providing them with the correct food flakes is a life or death matter. Joan (Lesley Manville), Tom’s wife, likes to mock him for this. She also likes to playfully nag him about his beer drinking after their walks and repeatedly ask when he is going to take  down the Christmas tree – but it is mostly an empty threat. They have what you would call an ordinary love.

‘Ordinary Love’ follows the breast cancer diagnosis of Joan. Before one of her first appointments, Tom makes sure to stop and get food for his goldfish. Joan eggs him on to ‘flush it down the toilet’, and he retorts in typical Northern Irish fashion ‘I’ll flush you down the toilet’. Perhaps a throwaway moment, it becomes truly poignant when some time later, Tom wakes to find that one of his goldfish has died. In the next scene, we see Tom break down for the first time after Joan’s diagnosis – head in hands, goldfish flushed, all alone and standing over the toilet.

The film is thwarted with bleak moments that could easily coin it a tearjerker, but its uniqueness is in its unbridled ability to quickly pick the mood back up. Much of this can be attributed to the cast match-making of Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville, who embody both characters effortlessly and deliver authentic comedic credibility.

In cinemas from 6th December, Ordinary Love is not the first film to depict cancer diagnosis and treatment, and it certainly won’t be the last. It does however show the ugly and sometimes nasty side of cancer that often gets romanticised. It is a ‘warts and all’ account without making a pantomime of a seriously sensitive and all-too-real topic that audiences can easily resonate with. There are no star-crossed ‘Romeo and Juliet’ characters here, akin to ‘The Fault In Our Stars’. There is just Tom and Joan, trying to navigate their new way of living in the best way they know how, that is at its heart – endearingly extraordinary.

Ordinary Love is in cinemas from 6th December 2019.

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Author: Anna Louise Crockard

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