Marriage Story

Glenn Leyburn and Lisa Barros D’Sa are husband-and-wife co-directors, who began their career with 2009’s Cherrybomb starring Rupert Grint and Kimberley Nixon. They returned with 2012’s Good Vibrations, the story of influential Belfast record store owner Terri Hooley. Seven years on, their third film Ordinary Love stars Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville as Tom and Joan, a long-term married couple who must deal with the devastating news that Joan has breast cancer.

ASFF: Was it always the intention to create a very positive story around such difficult circumstances?
Absolutely. We felt that this was ultimately a very uplifting story and life-affirming. It’s a love story and it’s about two characters that have been through a lot in their lives and through many days of precious normality that they value. It’s about two people who even after a lifetime together still have that joy in their relationship. They still have that fun, that humour, that electric spark between them that Lesley and Liam convey so beautifully. And, yes, they go through a big challenge when Joan is diagnosed with cancer, but it really celebrates that connection that they have and maintain through all of this.

ASFF: The medical procedures Joan goes through are very detailed. Was that important to you?
GL: Given the type of story that it is, we thought it was really important to have those details correct. We bought in a lot of medical advisors. During the chemotherapy scenes, those are real chemo nurses doing that. As much as possible, we brought in real professionals.

ASFF: Was this all part of your ambition with the story to create something real?
LBD: It was just very important to us to make this as authentic as possible, to respect all the people who are going through that journey every day. You want to reflect that honestly. I think the hallmark of the script is an attempt to be quite honest and authentic in the storytelling about what it’s really like. It’s about the ordinary moments that people experience in their lives and looking into those. If you’re dealing with cancer, or any epic event, you live it through the ordinary moments.

ASFF: Can you talk about casting Lesley Manville and Liam Neeson?
GL: We had been working with Liam on another project for a few years, and during that time we got to know him personally, and when we read the first draft of this, we instantly heard Liam’s voice in it. Just the Liam that we knew. And we also knew the types of stories he was interested in as well.
LBD: And we’ve loved Lesley, from her work with Mike Leigh to Phantom Thread. Like Liam…she’s just one of those actors that you believe everything she does. She has this beautiful naturalism, this nuance and intelligence about everything. We just thought these are two actors that could potentially be this really classic cinematic pairing, and it would be so exciting to see them together on screen.

ASFF: You’re a married couple. How does that work as co-directors?
GL: Well, there is this rule we have that after 11 o’clock at night, you can’t just go, ‘I’ve got this idea!’
LBD: We’ve made three features films together now, so if it wasn’t working well we wouldn’t still be here!

Ordinary Love is released in cinemas on 6 December. For more details, click here.

James Mottram

1. Stills from
Ordinary Love.