Director: Jill Andresevic
Runtime: 94 minutes
Reveling in the vivid urban landscape that is New York City as well as the colorful characters that inhabit it, Love Etc. is a winsome documentary that explores the universality of love through five different stories. Documentarian Jill Andresevic makes her directorial debut – leaping from short form docs to long – by bounding from Jamaica Hills and Forest Hills, Queens to Harlem then Soho in Manhattan and finally Canarsie, Brooklyn, to reveal real people going through familiar stages in love’s stories: First Love, Getting Married, Having Children (oddly titled as ‘Single’), Starting Over (after a divorce), and Lasting Love. While this pleasant premise is one that could easily fall into trite or treacly territory, the subjects of these narratives prove so vibrant that they defy cutesy categorization. Whether it be Brazillian-born Gabriel and his pontification-prone high school girlfriend Danielle, or the theatre director/soon-to-be single dad (via surrogate) Scott, Andresevic gives each subject enough screentime to make a poignant impression as to who they are and how they perceive love.
Yet Love Etc. does not devolve into some garrulous and didactic talking head fest about the value of love. Rather, each of the lovers in this doc has an impending drama to confront – and thankfully these seem a natural part of their lives rather than a staged catalyst for vérité tension. For the high school sweethearts, college approaches and with it, their first separation. For Scott, it’s how his love life will be affected by being a father – something to which blue-collared Ethan can relate. A 40-year-old divorced dad with two teens, this construction worker with an undeniable boyish charm unguardedly expounds in his thick NY accent about the danger of jumping into a new relationship with the mother of his son’s best friend. Danger of what? Disappointment, heartbreak, loneliness. These fears are something Chitra and Mahendra understand better every day. As their mammoth traditional Indian wedding – complete with 350 guests and days-long ceremonies – approaches, Chitra begins to worry that her unemployed fiancé won’t be the husband she hopes for. And she’s not alone, her parents and his seem to fear this manchild isn’t prepared for the work inherent in marriage. Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, Albert and Marion are on their 48th year of marriage, and they are still making beautiful music together – literally! As Marion’s memory begins to crumble under the weight of senility, her husband balances his devoted care to her with his dogged pursuit of achieving their long-held dream of a hit song. (He believes this time they have it with “Every Day’s a Holiday in Brooklyn.”)
Love Etc. is sweet and sprightly paced, making it a delight to watch. Rather than full portraits of its players, the audience is granted telling glimpses into the love lives of others that prove reflective. Surely many will connect to Gabriel’s overwhelming affection for his sweetheart, Scott’s instant adoration of his newborns, Ethan’s fear of falling for someone whose not falling for him, Chitra and Mahendra’s seemingly unavoidable squabbles, and hopefully Al’s devotion. Admirably, Love Etc. is an unabashed love letter to love, and it’s lovely.
Love Etc. opens July 1st in NY, expands in coming weeks. Check here to see if it’s playing near you.
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