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1 review, 4 user ratings

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Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement
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by brianorndorf

"Ladies who've lunched. Like forever."
4 stars

Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer are not famous faces normally associated with the documentary treatment. Instead, they are lovers who’ve experienced a near-lifelong commitment that’s revealed an emotional purity throughout the years, viewed through the prism of gay and lesbian history. Edie and Thea might be complete strangers at the outset of the picture, but their story is a gripping, endearing tale of romance and perseverance. They’ll be your friends in no time.

Previous to their meeting and eventual bond, Edie and Thea led very different lives. Edie was a frustrated lesbian conforming to the demands of Eisenhower-era domesticity, carrying on affairs (even a marriage) with men, following through on what was expected of her. Thea was more of a defiant woman, seizing her sexuality at a young age, aided well by her brawn and her considerable intelligence. When the two finally connected in the 1960s, it was a perfect fit, setting off a relationship that would grow in love and pride as the years carried on.

To tell this story, filmmakers Susan Muska and Greta Olafsdottir (“The Brandon Teena Story”) take a photographic route, charting the development of Edie and Thea’s relationship through pictorial evidence, presenting the twosome with vivid reminders of their past adventures via slide show to extract the precise memories. The images are colorful and mischievous, reflecting a union that’s developed in private to a bursting point, following Edie and Thea as they traveled the world and grew to appreciate each other’s idiosyncrasies. Perhaps it’s a story common to the ways of attraction, yet “A Very Long Engagement” is careful to create a personal feeling of a secretive life on the go, creating a sensation of romantic flight before medical realities grounded the couple.

Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Thea’s body began to slowly deteriorate. While her mind stayed in pristine condition, her mobility was reduced to a wheelchair (a cruel development for a woman who loved to dance), forcing the couple to reconsider their methods of partnership. With loyalty never in doubt, Edie and Thea carried on, perhaps more mindful of their romantic luck than ever before. The picture transmits this ease through affable interviews, but the essential elements of attraction and companionship are easily read on Edie and Thea’s faces.

Throughout their lives, Edie and Thea shadowed the rise of gay pride, involving themselves in politics and witnessing the determination of the movement, including the aftermath of the Stonewall riots. “A Very Long Engagement” isn’t a politically charged document, but the conclusion paints a vivid picture of the struggle for same-sex unions, as Edie and Thea take to Canada to achieve something they’ve always desired but could never enjoy: marriage. It’s a peaceful statement of unity, gently flooded into a surprisingly enchanting film that celebrates a love that defies all labels and limitations, reduced to its core of two individuals and their utter devotion.

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originally posted: 01/08/11 01:36:48
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: Outfest 2009 For more in the Outfest 2009 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Provincetown International Film Festival For more in the 2010 Provincetown International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

3/12/13 Grete Incredible. Beautiful. It changed my life. A film that needs to be seen. 5 stars
7/13/09 Monica Brilliant. Honest. Touching. Necessary 5 stars
6/24/09 Hendrik absolutely magnificent, destined to be a classic. 5 stars
6/23/09 fleaf Spectacular. Way better than I had expected. 5 stars
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  DVD: 14-Dec-2010



Directed by
  Gréta Olafsdóttir
  Susan Muska

Written by
  Gréta Olafsdóttir
  Susan Muska


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