What’s more powerful, the written or the spoken word? In the case of “The Lovers,” the answer is neither. It’s the lack of communication that is as deadly as a tightening noose around the neck. Azazel Jacobs writes and directs the emotionally loaded film “The Lovers” starring Tracy Letts and Debra Winger as a couple nearing the end of their marriage. Michael (Letts) and Mary (Winger), both fully involved in affairs, are ready to call it quits, but inexplicably, a small spark is ignited between the two, putting into question their impending marital demise.
Michael and Lucy (Melora Walters) are in a dramatic affair as we witness in the opening scene. This is paralleled in the next scene as we meet Mary and Robert (Aiden Gillen) in an equally emotionally evocative situation. And then we see the awkwardly uncomfortable interaction between this married couple. The inability to communicate that comes after years and years of comfort and complacency; the distance that is created after years of raising a child and going in two different directions; and the point of apparent “no return” at which many 50-somethings end up is portrayed in each and every scene with precision in “The Lovers.”
As pressure to leave from both Mary and Michael’s lovers builds, each of them places a date on telling their spouse that it’s over. Their son, Joel, and his girlfriend are visiting and this seems an appropriate point at which to tell one another. How this unfolds is nothing like what was planned, revealing the innermost feelings of loss, fear of change, and remorse for dying and dead hopes and dreams.
Simply put, “The Lovers” is remarkably daring and poignant for the Baby Boomer generation. Addressing a situation that occurs in many marriages in such a relevant and timely manner creates an updated version of any relationship film. We find these characters looking back at the paved and bumpy road many miles behind them, unable to see where the potholes and forks began. And Michael and Mary’s life couldn’t be any more routine, but the excitement of their affairs seem to give them that spark they need to live, laying the path of hope ahead of each of them. However, as they rekindle their own spark, the guilt of their situations as well as the love that was buried is now revealed. It’s complicated—just like real life.
This is a visual and visceral film, using emotional building blocks augmented by orchestral creations to give extraordinary depth to each and every scene. It feels much like a live theater play as we discover who these two main characters are and how they have come to this state. While the dialogue is sparse, it is the action and reaction that is more powerful than any spoken word could possibly be. And we become a part of what might be the final act in the marriage of Mary and Michael.
Letts, a stage actor who has proven himself to be a great talent no matter the medium, does not disappoint. He easily portrays the typical 50-something year old husband and father who is disengaged in all things pertaining to family. His regrets he wears on his sleeve. His lack of inspiration is palpable. And his want to feel alive “without the drama” is immediately relatable. Winger shines in her role, and again, with very little dialogue, we are able to completely understand her every thought and feeling. She’s dismayed with life; she’s pulled in several directions; and she is also lonely and needs more in her life. The two actors are always on the same page, their familiarity as a long-married couple believable, and their chemistry, when needed, is just as real.
Aiden Gillen’s “Robert” and Melora Walters’ “Lucy” are Mary and Michael’s lovers, respectively. Their characters are not as well developed, but this isn’t really needed as it’s Mary and Michael’s story. Robert and Lucy are just the conduits to conduct the story’s electricity through to the very surprising and unexpected end.
“The Lovers” is a rather complex story about a very typical situation in today’s marital society. Extraordinary performances from Letts and Winger carry the film, engaging the viewer completely. Its ironic humor blending seamlessly with realistic situations elevates this film to a level of filmmaking that we just don’t see enough of. In other words, it’s not your typical Hollywood film…and that’s a good thing.