Posts Tagged ‘Claudia Allen’

9th May
written by Mad Cow

Rating: Not Rated

Mad Cow’s rating: three cowbells (4 in my heart)

When I tell you that I wept almost all of the way through this movie, I hope you will not pass it by. Surely you will not all weep and for those who do, tears can be good for the soul. Both the original play and the screenplay were done by Claudia Allen with Wendy Jo Carlton directing. It’s among the few good lesbian movies around, and must be cherished. I caught it at the Cleveland International Film Festival and you can buy the DVD or rent it.

Hannah (Sharon Gless) is passing her last  days in a nursing home bed and knowing that her lifetime partner Rachel is dying in another room nearby. But she can’t see her because the “family” won’t allow it and she can’t get there by herself because she can’t walk. Gless’ character is similar to the one she played on TV in Queer as Folk. She’s caustic when necessary, but mostly funny. Surrounded by people who mean well but don’t have a clue, it’s not hard to be funny. Of course, we all remember Gless as Cagney, partner to detective Lacey (Tyne Daly) on TV.

The movie pulls back a curtain on lesbian lives to reveal some of the ways we live and some of the ways we’re forced to live, with reflections on old age as well. A younger Rachel (Ann Hagemann) appears in Hannah’s room and they talk about how their lives have gone, with multiple flashbacks.  They were lifelong lovers, even though Rachel married and had children. Hannah joined the military and then traveled the world. Kelli Strickland as the younger Hannah looks like many lesbians I know, appropriately butch, unlike the preponderance of lipstick lesbians on The L Word. As they age, the older Rachel (Maureen Gallagher) gets stronger in conflicts with her soul mate.

Gless is pivotal, helping us through false notes from minor players, various nursing home employees and residents. A low-budget movie shot within a short timeframe and with an uneven cast, Hannah is awkward at times. It helps to view it as a play, without the expectations one has of a movie. Yet there are wonderful surprises. The church lady who comes to help Hannah face death is spot on! Taylor Miller as Marge, Rachel’s daughter, was good enough for me to feel great animosity toward the woman. Woven into the plot is Greta (Jacqui Jackson), a young college student who arrives at the home to “interview” Hannah about her life. Greta eventually has a bigger impact on Hannah’s world than she can imagine.

Rachel and Hannah were passionately attracted to each other and had sex as often as they could, even before Rachel’s husband died. And to its credit, the sex in this movie is about the women’s relationship and their mutual pleasure, not just about the viewer’s gaze. The verity of their relationship over the years is stunning. Eventually they lose control of their lives to “family.” This is so familiar.

Everyone on earth has troubles, suffering, sorrow, and loss. Many films are directed at what we humans must face in our lives and how we meet these things – with grace, bitterness, or something in between. I wondered whether non-LGBT people might see the truth of this movie as a reason to pity us. No need. We are happy. It’s just that other people’s sorrows are often viewed as universal. Ours are marginal, odd and hidden, and requiring enormous energy for us to contain.

We “sexual minorities” must keep a stiff upper lip, hold things together, and make do. And when we’re gone, often the “we” disappears. Even the most open of lovers, such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok, and Mary Woolley (founder of Mt. Holyoke College) and Jeannette Marks are deemed not to have “done it.” Too many have been condemned to be “just good friends” forever.  Hannah Free has written it all down, wanting future generations to know the truth. She does this for all of us. Damn it, we were here and we loved each other. We had a story. When I see a movie like this, I weep.

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