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Liam Neeson praised for made-in-Belfast tale of love and tragedy


Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville in Ordinary Love

Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville in Ordinary Love

Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville in Ordinary Love

Liam Neeson's latest film has received glowing reviews as it hits the big screen today.

Ordinary Love - based on a script by Belfast playwright Owen McCafferty - was filmed in the city and directed by Northern Irish husband and wife team Glenn Leyburn and Lisa Barros D'Sa.

McCafferty loosely based Ordinary Love on his own domestic experiences. It follows Joan (Lesley Manville) and Tom (Neeson), who live a quiet and happy life in a leafy suburb of Belfast.

The middle-aged couple have a bond that many can identify with but their world is rocked after Joan discovers a lump on her breast, which turns out to be cancerous.

Thus begins a torrid journey through diagnosis, surgery and chemotherapy as the audience wonders if their relationship will ever be the same again.

The performances by Manville and Ballymena's Neeson have been lauded, as Barros D'Sa and Leyburn's picture draws its power from the actors.

According to the Irish Independent's Paul Whitington, the almost musical or metronomic quality to Tom and Joan's life can make life's harshest blows palatable.

The review also heaps praise on the portrayal of Tom by Hollywood star Neeson, who has much more in his locker than the all-action style of the hero from Taken.

"A thoroughly grown-up film in the best possible sense, Glenn Leyburn and Lisa Barros D'Sa's drama gives us love without the glamour, without conditions, in the end without limits: and in fact there's an irony in the title, because there's nothing ordinary about that kind of commitment at all," Whitington wrote.

"It also reminds us, with a quiet jolt, that Liam Neeson can act.

"No guns at his disposal here, no gallery of one-dimensional enemies or simplistic revenge missions.

"Instead, he is simply required to be, to inhabit the lazy, comfortable body of an ordinary, unambitious man.

"He does so brilliantly, with compelling unfussiness and naturalism: the film-makers have recently said that they heard Neeson's voice when first they read the screenplay; his soft burr stands the best chance of convincing Joan that everything's going to be OK."

Meanwhile, PA Media's film critic Damon Smith highlighted McCafferty's gently paced script, allowing the audience to cosy up to the on-screen couple.

It's revealed that the couple had just settled back into a routine under a cloud of grief following the death of their daughter, Debbie.

"The lead actors are handsomely matched and share a delightful on-screen chemistry that compels us to stand hopefully beside their long-time lovebirds through chemotherapy and the inevitable squabbles borne of crippling fear and frustration," writes Smith.

"When Manville mournfully observes, 'We're all just really on our own', rows of hearts will surely break."

Elsewhere, RTE's Laura Delaney wrote: "As 2019 draws to a close, Ordinary Love reminds us to seek beauty in life's small moments. A must-see."

She wrote: "Manville elevates a story we think we've seen before into a truly touching, poignant drama, while Liam Neeson's unforced charm brings a surprisingly buoyant and profoundly moving edge to what could have been a mawkish drama".

Ordinary Love was released in UK and Irish cinemas today and has a 12A rating.

Belfast Telegraph