Prior to bed, the woman curls in bed while the man runs water in the bathroom. The man, Michael, sends a text. The woman, Mary, checks her own phone. They speak distantly, and they exchange “good night”s because that’s what they’ve done for so long.
Michael (Tracey Letts, Todd Solondz’s WIENER-DOG) and Mary (Debra Winger, BOYCHOIR) are each seeing other people–he a dance instructor named Lucy (Melora Walters, INDISCRETION) and she a writer named Robert (Aidan Gillen, John Carney’s SING STREET). Lucy and Robert are each eager to be the only one in their respective lover’s life, urging them to make the great reveal so the relationship can carry on into something more permanent. But can Lucy and Robert really give Michael and Mary not just what they want, but what they need? It would appear clear that the answer is no, as Michael and Mary are aware that their bond is unlike anything a Lucy or Robert could offer, as exemplified when they begin moving back into one another’s arms.
Michael and Mary exchange few words when in the same room, and there is a certain hollowness to those. Perhaps they feel too old to divorce, or too comfortable, or too afraid. And so they live together, and it is this, in a way, that draws them back. There is moment about a third of the way into the movie in which Michael and Mary, in bed with their eyes closed, begin to kiss. When their eyes open, they spring from bed, as if embarrassed or having just embraced a stranger. They were thinking of their lovers, but the viewer gets a clear sense that their movements were natural ones.
THE LOVERS offers a fascinating portrait of a couple that is both on the brink of disaster and on the edge of renourish. These opposing feelings are wonderfully handled by writer/director Azazel Jacobs (2011’s TERRI), who incorporates an often lighthearted tone to tell the story. It’s not difficult to imagine a similarly plotted movie in which drama is loaded heavily throughout. But THE LOVERS is something of a romantic comedy, with heart and occasional smiles. Although bordering on a sort of stale vision (there’s nothing that compelling or contributory in the way the movie is shot or edited, save for the aforementioned bedroom kiss scene), THE LOVERS remains charming.
Much of this comes from the performances of leads Letts and Winger. Here are two talents–one better known for his stage work (Letters won a Pulitzer and a Tony for his play AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY), one for her film career (Winger has three Oscar nominations)–delivering skilled turns that simultaneously show the trials of marriage and the powers of love. When Letts and Winger are together, they are one of the most interesting adult couples depicted onscreen in years.
While THE LOVERS does slightly slip here and there (certain interactions seem unnecessary, and the last half hour has issues), it’s a strong movie with heart, best revealed through the performances of its leads.
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. This transfer offers fine details and accurate colors, even during the more dimly lit scenes.
Audio: English 5.1 DTS- HD Master Audio. Subtitles in English and Spanish. Dialogue comes through without fault and the score plays nicely.
Audio commentary with writer and director Azazel Jacobs: Jacobs offers a soft-spoken commentary that fans will enjoy listening to.
A Complicated Passion: Making THE LOVERS (19:23): This featurette covers the inspiration, production, themes and more of THE LOVERS.
The Music of Romance: Scoring THE LOVERS (13:51) looks at composer Mandy Hoffman’s contributions.