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November 10, 2009

“If These Walls Could Talk 2” – Review of a sequel

I have previously reviewed a TV movie called If These Walls Could Talk. Tonight I had the immense pleasure of watching it’s sort-of sequel, If These Walls Could Talk 2. Similar to the first film, this film was set up in three segments, with each segment representing a different period of time and a different set of people – similar problems, but each slightly different. If These Walls Could Talk dealt with the issue of abortion; its sort-of sequel deals with issues faced by lesbians in America across  30 years of so-called change.

Segment one, set in 1961, stars the beautiful, undeniable Vanessa Redgrave as Edith Tree, a women in her senior years who lives with her partner Abby (Marian Seldes). Abby suffers a fall and a stroke, and from the moment she is taken to the hospital to the very end of the segment, the viewer is shown how difficult it was for Edith and Abby to explain their relationship in a way that would be acceptable to other people, and satisfy how they truly felt about each other. In the hospital, Edith is treated as a “friend,” not allowed to visit Abby in the ICU, and not notified of her death. After the funeral, Abby’s next of kin (nephew, niece-in-law, and their daughter) come to the house with Edith and presume to do her the “large favour” of allowing her the choice of one of Abby’s things as a keepsake – seemingly unaware of the true nature of their relationship. Edith is forced to keep up appearances, and try not to strangle them as they flit about her house, treating her as a guest as they help themselves to their inheritance. Vanessa Regrave is to be congratulated, wholeheartedly, on a mindblowingly beautiful performance.

Segment two, set in 1972, stars Michelle Williams, Nina Long and Natasha Lyonne as a group of lesbian university students who share a house together, and who are struggling to have their issues included along with the other feminists’ issues at the university. Along the way, Michelle Williams’ character (Linda) meets Chloe Sevigny’s character (Amy), who is more of the stereotypical “butch” character than the feminine characters portrayed by the other actresses. Linda’s friends belittle her for getting involved with Amy, because Amy, in their eyes, seems too much like a man, which they feel goes against everything they have worked for in getting recognition as equal women.  In the end, Linda must choose between the comfort of the friends she’s come to know and love, or the possibility of love with someone like Amy. This segment serves to highlight the problems within the lesbian community itself, not just in communication with the hetero community.

Segment three, set in 2000, stars Ellen DeGeneris (also director!) and Sharon Stone as a married couple who are trying find a sperm donor so they can have a baby. What’s beautiful about this segment is the selfless, gracious love displayed between Ellen’s character (Kal) and Sharon’s character (Karen) while they go through the stress and pain of trying to conceive a baby and start an “alternative family.” My favourite part of this segment? Kal’s utter despair at being unable to create a baby with Karen on their own, out of their own love, as is allowed to hetero couples every day. They long for a baby who will look like Kal, because it is Karen who will be impregnated; they want it to be as much “their” baby as is possible. The easy, tender, supportive love shown between these women highlights the struggle than many couples (lesbian or not, really!) go through in order to conceive and have a family of their own.

My regular readers will be aware of how much I normally hate sequels; this case is entirely different. This is not so much a sequel as an “instalment,” a vehicle for the airing out of yet another issue, as seen in the first instalment. Each story in this segment is told with a gentle, yet strangely raw, type of honesty that must be experienced by EVERYONE. Heck, watch part 1 and part 2 together, make a night of it – you’ll be amazed at how you feel after.

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