Love Etc. is a charming, observational documentary about love as seen through the perspective of a wide ranging assortment of people living in and around New York City. Albert and Marion, are a Canarsie couple who’ve been happily married for 48 years. Over in Jamaica, Queens, Chitra and Mahendran navigate a two-year engagement leading up to their wedding which is now only months away. In Forest Hills, Queens, Ethan is a divorced father of two who is still coping with the breakup of his 14-year marriage while looking for someone new to share his life with. Scott meanwhile is a single gay man living in Harlem who finds that his need to have children tends to put a chill on his romantic pursuits. Finally in SoHo, we follow Gabriel and Danielle a couple of recent high school grads in their first serious relationship.
Instead of tremendous insights into what love is or why we crave it, Love Etc. takes love as a simple fact and seeks to show the pursuit of it from as many different perspectives as possible. I would’ve liked a representative from the hermit contingent who are quietly and happily single, or at least someone who questions whether monogamous human love is desirable or possible, but you can’t have everything and this just isn’t that movie. Instead it’s more about the ups and downs of pursuing our romantic ideal.
The best story by far is that of Albert and Marion. It’s always encouraging to see long time partners who are still in love, and their story is made more poignant by the revelation that Marion has been experiencing the onset of dementia for the past year. It’s heartbreaking to see her phasing in and out of awareness and to watch as Albert tries to come to terms with the fact that he is becoming a stranger to the love of his life. I think the film cops out a little bit by ultimately ending their story on a positive note, but it’s possible the couple’s cooperation only went so far. you can imagine the pain of what will happen to them without having it pushed in your face. Nevertheless, I can’t help but feeling it would’ve made for a more honest and well-rounded examination.
Chitra and Mahendran meanwhile are a bit frustrating if all too typical. She’s motivated and driven while he’s more laid back and take-it-as-it-comes. They’re together for 2 years before they get engaged and are engaged for 2 years before they marry yet somehow Chitra seems to believe that Mahendran will snap into shape the day they’re married. It’s not true of course and the couple quickly runs aground. Oddly, they’d be a bit more sympathetic if they’d rushed into marriage only to have subsequently experienced regrets. In this case though, it’s hard to understand how they let it go for four years. How delusional do you have to be? Though their circumstances are so common as to be almost a cliché, it’s still a little maddening to watch unfold.
Regardless of who you are and what your experience with love is, it seems pretty likely you’ll be able to identify with one or more of the couples in the film and that’s ultimately part of the attraction. It’s comforting to know we’re all charting the same rocky territory, making the same missteps and occasionally experiencing the same victories. That commonality of human experience is probably ultimately what makes Love Etc. appealing. It might not be especially incisive or revealing, but it’s an entertaining and frequently moving embrace of one of the things that makes us human beings. If nothing else, it’s a lovely antidote to what usually passes for phony Hollywood romance. That alone makes it worth seeing.
Love Etc. USA 2011. Directed by Jill Andresevic. Cinematography by Luke Geissbuhler. Original music by Rob Simonsen. Edited by Alex Israel and Mary Manhardt. 1 hour 35 minutes. Not rated by the MPAA. 3.5 stars (out of 5)
Filed under: Review