In film, as in real life, misunderstandings and embarrassing and awkward moments are just some of the many situations couples can find themselves in when it comes to love relationships. Couples can be soulmates or polar opposites, come from the same or different backgrounds and/or social classes, have too different or too similar temperaments, and/or find themselves brought together by an odd set of circumstances without which they would not have normally even spoken.
The obstacles a couple must face can bring them together or force them apart.
In the award-winning film directed by Ira Sachs Love is Strange, co-written by Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias, the obstacles longtime couple Ben and George enounter drive the narrative forward, posing the question:
How will Ben and George overcome their many hurdles in order to live together once again?
After almost 40 years together Ben and George are finally able to legally marry, but when the archdiocese learns of their marriage, Ben loses his choir job at the Catholic school, and the couple is forced to sell their condo.
Ironically, Ben and George’s marriage is the inciting incident. Their marriage is the cause of Ben losing his job.
Victims of the brutal New York City real estate market, the couple decides to temporarily live apart as they search for an affordable new home. George stays on their former neighbors’ couch while Ben stays miles away with family, sharing a bunk bed with his teenage great-nephew in Brooklyn.
For George and Ben, and their respective hosts, finding a new home can’t come soon enough.
During a phone call from his nephew’s apartment to George, Ben poignantly states:
“Sometimes when you live with people you know them better than you care to.”
As the story unfolds the obstacles George and Ben face raise the stakes in the plot; living separately and with others brings about unforeseen challenges.
While love is one major theme in this film, ageism is another poignant theme. Love is Strange examines getting older in a society catered to the young where benefits dwindle, finding employment is scarce, and how the fragility of health is in the forefront of economic and emotional survival.
Regardless of the genre you’re writing in, characters must face obstacles, roadblocks, and problems, which will not only raise the stakes in the script but drive the narrative forward. In Love is Strange, George and Ben’s love for each other is plausible and relatable, as are the obstacles and challenges they face both together and apart.
Award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker Susan Kouguell teaches screenwriting at SUNY College at Purchase and is chairperson of Su-City Pictures East, LLC, a motion picture consulting company founded in 1990 where she works with writers, filmmakers, and industry executives worldwide. (www.su-city-pictures.com). Her short films are in the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection and archives, and were included in the Whitney Museum’s Biennial. Kouguell was a story analyst and story editor for many studios, wrote voice-over narrations for (Harvey Weinstein) Miramax and over a dozen feature assignments for independent companies. Susan’s latest book SAVVY CHARACTERS SELL SCREENPLAYS! A comprehensive guide to crafting winning characters with film analyses and screenwriting exercises, is available at $1.00 off on https://www.createspace.com/3558862 using DISCOUNT CODE: G22GAZPD. On Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009SB8Z7M (discount code does not apply). Follow Susan at Su-City Pictures, LLC Facebook fan page and SKouguell on Twitter, and read more articles on her blog: http://su-city-pictures.com/wpblog/