A 65-year lesbian relationship forms the basis of this heartfelt documentary about the perseverance of love against all opposition
In worrying and uncertain times, Netflix documentary A Secret Love is exactly the kind of modest, soothing, and heartwarming tonic that can keep the world at bay. Following the 65-year-long lesbian romance between Canadian-American couple Terry Donahue and Pat Henschel, it covers the fear and discrimination that gay couples faced in the USA until very recently, but is ultimately concerned with a moving portrait of romantic love and familial support – the sort of film to remind you that the bad times are rarely permanent.
Terry and Pat met in the 1940s, with Terry something of a celebrity at the time thanks to her status in the professional women’s baseball league that inspired A League of Their Own. They recount the long history of their relationship, which had to be kept secret for decades, and A Secret Love balances emotional revelations with kind humour and harsh history lessons. The absurd specificities of America’s anti-lesbian legislation in the ‘50s raise some dark laughs, but none of the people featured here are reduced to broad brush strokes.
Terry’s memories of her father prove extremely moving, a Canadian farmer born in 1881 who not only understood and accepted her and Pat, but was an actively supportive fan of their relationship, even when it was hidden from Terry’s mum and the wider world. In the present day, Terry’s health concerns and Pat’s conflicts with Terry’s wider family are played for a little too much capital-D “Drama” (this is a Ryan Murphy production, after all), but this eventually gives way to a deeply affecting and gentle kindness.
A Secret Love skilfully uses its limited scope to tell a heartfelt tale about the perseverance of love against all opposition, be it governmental bigotry, or the simple reality of time's effect on us all.
A Secret Love is now streaming on Netflix.Where to watch online