Mike (Michael Brandon) and Susan (Bonnie Bedelia) are getting married in three days' time, but he is getting cold feet, and is spending the hours they have together trying to persuade her to call off the ceremony. That's quite a few hours, as they live together in a small apartment, but she knows he loves her really and it's his nerves talking - once the big day is here, he will settle down. However, the families they belong to are not so confident in their marriages, which are littered with tension and potential break-ups, indeed Mike's brother Richie (Joseph Hindy) and his wife Joan (Diane Keaton) are in the process of separating and divorcing, despite the anguish of his parents...
Lovers and Other Strangers was based pretty closely on a play written by actors Joseph Bologna and Renée Taylor, you could tell it was faithful because for the most part, director Cy Howard simply pointed his camera at the cast speaking their lines with only the occasional burst of life, such as a sequence where everyone was dancing. Not even his use of a handheld camera at certain points was able to disguise how dialogue heavy this was, making it resemble a television adaptation, except American TV of the day would not have included fairly frank sex talk, brief nudity or a smattering of strong language. For that reason, twenty-first century audiences may not get on with this.
Not least because relationships have moved on in the decades since this was an admittedly influential hit, but just look at its rival from the same year, Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, and you see that too looked its age and had done for some time. What was cutting edge had become the norm, and then moved past that as the years rolled by, rendering both those once zeitgeisty films relics that would really only be returned to out of curiosity, whether you had seen them a long time before or not. What they both had in common, aside from the obvious, was a theme song that had gone on to be an easy listening classic, in this case The Carpenters' smooth favourite For All We Know.
Except it wasn't The Carpenters performing it in the movie, and despite securing this its only Oscar, the tune was merely heard in a short burst halfway through and over the end credits, which were a lot more skimpy than the opening credits (those had a different, non-award-winning song). But if the cast were somewhat exposed in the less than imaginative presentation of their performances, every so often there would be a scene that reminded you why this succeeded so well for audiences of the day, and if the attempts to tickle the funny bone grew tedious in too many places, those moments where the action calmed down and allowed a more measured conversation conjured up some nice examples of acting from some of the less frantic performers. Yet it was anchored to 1970 throughout.
In fact, you could say it came across as something from the previous decade, which was when the play was staged after all, and given how quickly the culture moved in the seventies as the sexual revolution took hold and a generation gap widened, you may wonder why so many of the characters have any tolerance for the behaviour of the others. Richard Castellano and Bea Arthur played Mike's parents as some kind of Italian-American stereotype, to the extent you want the divorcing couple to get as far away from them as possible, yet even they had a scene or two which offered nuance: Castellano, best known from The Godfather now, was especially good when he was allowed to calm down. Meanwhile the richer Susan's family have troubles of their own, as her father (Gig Young) is cheating on her mother (Cloris Leachman), though oddly we spent more time with her wackily pretentious cousin (Marian Hailey) who Mike's best man Bob Dishy is trying to seduce. Interestingly, in a "life goes on" manner, a lot of this was left hanging, with us only certain Mike and Susan have a future. Music by Fred Karlin.