Aafter four decades, can a romantic relationship still be alive, fulfilling and dynamic? If so, what would it look like? This is the question that Netflix addresses in its new docuseries My love: six stories of true love.
Based on the hit Korean documentary from 2013 My love, don’t cross this river by director Jin Mo-young, the tearjerker of a series, which premieres on April 13, follows six elderly couples from around the world for a year to show what their partnership looks like as they enter their final chapter together.
For a husband and a wife, it is about getting their affairs in order so as not to overload their children. A same-sex couple hope to escape their cramped home and retire to the countryside, while others come to terms with health problems. But whatever obstacles they face, all act out of compassion, patience and affection, often laughing.
It wasn’t easy to find these examples of pure, undying love, documentary showrunner Xan Aranda told The Daily Beast. It wasn’t enough that the partners had been together for over 40 years – their relationships had to be vibrant and the love between them tangible after all this time.
“Nothing of this magnitude has ever been done before,” Aranda, who was nominated for an Emmy for her work on Transparent: it’s me, said. “Netflix is a bold mofo to take it on, just like [production company] Walk. “
“It’s one thing that a relationship is decades old, but is it alive now?” Aranda says criteria. “Does he have glory to tell, but how is he experienced in the present? Make one year in the life there are many very special factors to consider beyond their personality. “
It was a tall order, but they eventually found six successful relationships with Ginger and David, from Vermont; Nati and Augusto, from Spain; Kinuko and Haruhei, from Japan; Saengja and Yeongsam, from South Korea; Nicinha and Jurema, from Brazil; and Satyabhama and Satva, from India.
“None of them would have looked for that,” says Aranda. “If we had cast for this long wishlist, none of those people we found, who I think were perfect for the show, none of them would have responded. Everyone was like, ‘Who, us? Why?'”
Beyond the careful consideration of couples, the choice of the director of each episode to tell these stories was equally intentional. “It was also extremely important to Netflix, the Korean crew, myself and Boardwalk that we were hiring directors in their own country to tell a story from their own country,” says Aranda. “We were really aware of our responsibility to tell a story of a country, especially for large countries.”
The result is a powerful look at the lives of these couples, and viewers can’t help but fall in love with their stories. Each relationship works in a unique way – their love manifesting in different ways, depending on personalities and cultural differences. The audience is brought to his home, shares his celebrations and feels his grief with him.
“The audience is brought to his home, shares his celebrations and feels his grief with him.“
A particularly moving moment comes from the pragmatist Ginger, who explains why she is going to spread her ashes where her parents are buried, while David has chosen to have hers spread over their family farm. “When the north wind blows, David’s ashes will rise where he can visit me,” she said. “When the wind blows in the other direction, I’ll go down to see it.”
In another heartbreaking moment, Augusto is unable to get his license renewed due to his failing eyesight and reflexes, but in the next scene he is almost forgotten as he flirts with Nati and grabs her after getting a ride back to their rural village.
“Every month I was getting images from six countries and inevitably something would make me sob whether that happened or not,” says Aranda. “But any loving moment that we live for. Two people who have been together for so long and still offer each other tenderness are huge.
For Aranda, a particularly poignant scene is when Yeongsam realizes how serious Saengja’s physical condition is after decades of hard work. “He’s such a confident guy, he has such a warm voice, a booming voice,” she says. “There’s that moment of overwhelming tenderness when he scientifically learns how hard his wife has worn and worked and she can’t hear. I think it really shook him.
Another important element was to illustrate how complex these relationships can be. Satyabhama and Satva are in an arranged marriage but are as much in love as any of the other couples. Nicinha and Jurema, a same-sex couple, explain how their large, loving family was born out of small arguments, with Nicinha going out to let off steam only to find out later that she was pregnant.
“We left arguments in all the films, quarrels, friction, whatever,” suggests Aranda. “I love this part of the story of how Nicinha and Jurema’s love lasted over time, they kept coming back to each other even after they had their outbursts. Now they’re just together. I think it’s encouraging for anyone looking or struggling with love to know that you don’t have to fall into a perfect relationship to make it last that long. You just have to keep trying, listening to each other, and loving each other.
At the end of each couple’s story, no update is provided on how they’re doing. In a way, this is not necessary since the story of their love has already been told. Whatever happens, it will remain constant.
“We wanted it to be a snapshot in time,” says Aranda. “We wanted it to have a timeless quality in some ways. A lot of people say it’s one thing to eat, it’s another thing to be full. I was very much in agreement that people have to get Google stuff later. Being in the moment with them, I think it’s a really rare and delicious thing. We wanted you to be satisfied with what we thought was good nutrition because it’s really tasty, tasty love, and delicious scream.
Filming ended in early 2020, just months before the world was gripped by a pandemic. For the team, Aranda says they wanted to make sure everyone was healthy and luckily all of the couples managed to survive the year. But even so, some couples believe that 2019 might be the last normal year of their lives, as many loved ones have lost.
This makes the documentary series very special for Aranda, who describes it as “an honor of a lifetime”.
“I think there was a lot of acrimony in the world, a lot of fear and a lot of pain,” she says. “I really believed it would be good for the planet when it came out and I think it has never been truer, that it’s good for the planet. On a very general, basic level, I think there is nothing better in this world than to love and to be loved.
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