‘A Secret Love’ demystifies what the popular media believes to be a myth – The elderly LGBT+ community. The film tells the story of two lesbians, Terry and Pat, who have hidden their love for over 60 years from their family, yet now find themselves in a situation not uncommon to a lot of the elderly community with declining health; Do we move from the comfort of a liberal urban setting to go back to our rural hometown to be cared for by family and care homes?
My first criticism is not of the film but of Netflix, as this film was not obviously on my homepage under any of the categories. I really had to know what I was searching for. Bearing in mind that my Netflix algorithms are mainly for Queer content, I was a bit disappointed that this wasn’t being targeted at me. This makes me sad to think that the people who really need to see this documentary (and we all know who I mean) would completely miss this important topic.
The love story between Terry and Pat is heart-warming, and as we delve further into their past lives, we see how incredible these women are – I won’t spoil the surprise, but let’s just say, Terry’s past life has already been immortalised in a very famous film starring Tom Hanks.
They also explore the environment in which these women grew up, giving us insight as to why they had to hide their love for so long; and once the film explains the fear and hatred directed at the LGBT+ community during that time in history, I don’t think anyone can blame Terry and Pat for presenting as ‘Gal Pals’.
While exploring the present-day family dynamic of Terry’s family, I must say it comes under scrutiny for me and something didn’t quite sit right while watching it. One family member of Terry’s took on a very active role in convincing the couple to move back to her hometown so they could look after her, yet in the meantime almost villanised Pat for wanting to stay in Chicago – their home for over 60 years where they were openly out to all their friends. It was as if this family member didn’t understand how much of a change that would be and we see this in an emotionally charged argument she has with Pat. Although I understand the family members’ motive of wanting to have her Aunt back home and safe, she goes about it like a bulldozer, not showing much empathy towards Pat’s experiences. And when I say Pats experiences, I mean experiences! Poor Pat had so many unfortunate events in her early life that you can almost understand why she is so hesitant to accept this change.
In terms of other family members, I did sigh a few times when they made the whole situation about themselves especially Tammy, who made some disappointing statements.
The documentary really puts into perspective an issue we may all have to face at some point of going ‘back in the closet’ when going into a care home or the issue of caring for our own loved ones.
‘A Secret Love’ is a must watch by anyone identifying in the LGBT community and if you can convince those who may hold the “gay is a new trend” view then this will be an important eye opener. At the end of the documentary, I did not see it as just a lesbian story, but instead, a story about how we can do better for our elderly community.
Verdict – 3/5 homeruns