Rating: (4 out of 5) [Critic’s Pick!] Sunday, 10/19/2008, 11:00 AM Feature presentation, $10 at Lincoln Theatre
THIS IS ONE of those documentaries that should be rated by the number of Kleenex boxes needed to get through it. That said, I hope you shop at Costco.
Director Pilar Prassas follows three of the seven New Jersey couples who sued the state in 2002 for the right to marry. One of the couples, Diane and Marilyn, were struck by tragedy before the case made it to court — Marilyn was diagnosed with an aggressive form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease). It’s with great compassion and respect that Prassas captures the end of Marilyn’s life and interweaves it into the story for marriage equality in New Jersey.
In the film, the spirit of Marilyn comes to life through interviews with her surviving partner, her children, her friends, and old home movies. Prassas’ own footage captures the decline of Marilyn’s health, including the final weekend she spends with her grown children at the beach. Never does it feel intrusive and never does it fail to hurt.
The other two couples — Chris and Craig, and Marcye and Karen — pale in comparison. Chris and Craig provide a more reserved approach to the case, but even their frustration and anger at its outcome is evident. Marcye and Karen are the family unit in the film, shown with their two children. As Marilyn and Diane’s relationship is ending, Marcye and Karen’s family continues to grow. It’s well handled and nicely juxtaposed.
It’s the legal wrangling of the case — footage of the Lambda Legal lawyers and arguments before the Court — that are the least interesting portion of the documentary. It’s needed background, but hearing politicians speak on the floor of the Assembly feels canned next to the personal footage. Nevertheless, In Sickness and In Health is a wonderful introduction to someone you wish you could have met and, even though a stranger, whose passing is heartbreaking.
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