Filmmakers Susan Muska and Gréta Ólafsdóttir document the very long, love affair between Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer. The two women married after a 40-year engagement. What started as two girls meeting at a New York party in the 1960s ends with the couple's Canadian wedding in 2007.
Breaking Glass Pictures released this disc on Dec. 14 with a half-dozen special features including a glimpse at this movie's trip through the festival circuit. The story has been lauded with over twenty awards there, many of them chosen by audiences all across the country. It won Best Documentary at Outfest 2009.
The reason it did was because the movie does what every great documentary should. It tells a powerful, emotional and important, true story through the eyes and lips of its participants, and it tells it as intimately as possible or in a way that makes the audience feel as intimately knowledgeable of the subject as possible.
Earlier this year, Breaking Glass Pictures also released Phyllis & Harold, a documentary that stylistically is very similar. In both movies, the couple who have been together for decades speak directly into the camera about the evolution of their relationships. The only difference is that Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement offers no narration or any third person commentary.
This movie might also be described as a lesbian version of 2007's Chris & Don: A Love Story, a documentary that charted a 40-year gay male partnership. Yet, this is about the individualities of these two women and how those individualities become clearer as we watch their continued togetherness and understand their true attraction.
No other documentary in 2010 has given us a more honest portrait of true love between two human beings. Anyone needing a definition of it, of what true love stands for and what it really looks like, he or she needs to look here. Edie & Thea is as poignant as it is passion-filled, even in light of the couple's physical disability.
From a cane, to crutches to finally a wheelchair, we do see the toll the physical disability has on the lesbian couple. It's difficult but they manage and there's a strength here that's often unseen but that I appreciated. Despite it all, the filmmakers show Edie and Thea strolling past cherry blossom trees, going for a swim, talking about sex and simply enjoying their present lives while projected photos on a white door illumates their past.
Those photos reveal happy times, times of dancing and moments that Edie will never have again since the movie ended. They're moments, however, that span the majority of her life, moments and memories that can't be taken nor will ever fade.
It's with heavy heart that a few weeks prior to this movie's release on DVD the news broke that Edie Windsor filed a lawsuit disputing the constitionality of the Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA. The government made Edie pay $350,000 in estate taxes. Presumably, she wouldn't have paid over a third of a million to the government if DOMA didn't basically say that people in same-sex marriages weren't worthy of federal rights. In fact, DOMA defines marriage as only being between a man and a woman.
Well, I'm sorry. I don't know how anyone can see and hear about all of Edie and Thea's moments and memories over the course of the 40 years that these women stayed as one and not call it a marriage. I don't know how!
Five Stars out of Five.
Not Rated But Recommended for All Audiences.
Running Time: 62 mins.