A SECRET LOVE is my latest underrated movie discovery, this time on Netflix. I not only wanted to highlight this documentary because it is a sweet and important watch, but also because it is Pride month and I can think of no other movie that better highlights a generational-spanning romance than this.
The hook of the film is that it is an A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN love story, but it’s so much more than that. Director Chris Bolan focuses on the 70+ year love story between his two great aunts, Terry Donahue and Pat Henschel, who hid their love story until they were in their 80s. The women told their family members they were just best friends who lived together for safety and to save money, while telling others they were cousins. The documentary transitions back and forth between showing the women’s relationship grow throughout their youth, especially through Donahue’s work in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, and how they live today in their 80s and 90s.
A SECRET LOVE briefly focuses on the history of homophobic laws in America, from imprisoning women for wearing pants to breaking up gay bars and house parties arresting those inside. But what I found especially interesting was the way homophobia is weaved into the documentary itself, in Terry and Pat’s everyday life. In the more obvious moments, the women are scared to come out to their family members, fearing they would be ostracized by the very people that should love them the most. And in the more subtle moments, you see hints that Terry and Pat are concerned about moving into an assisted-living home and not being accepted by their fellow residents. A common theme, which is also explored in the film, is the outrageous expense of retirement homes. However, I had never considered the issue of LGBTQ+ couples aging and having to worry about discrimination in their community.
Focusing the camera on such a beautiful love story puts a personal face on the overly-politicized issue of same-sex relationships. Does this movie pull at your heartstrings? Absolutely. Did I sob my eyes out the entire time? Yes, yes I did. But this film is an extremely important watch, especially during this time when we are honoring trailblazers in the LGBTQ+ movement and hoping these lessons are carried into the future.
A SECRET LOVE shows that despite society’s bigoted, homophobic laws and sentiments that made Pat and Terry feel they had to hide their relationship, love ultimately prevailed.
My Review: A