The basis for movie romances is entirely comprised of overcoming complications. Will our protagonists be able to overcome the obstacles that complicate their relationship? Often times these complications are internal forces, starting the film with both characters having with a mutual dislike of the other that gradually grows into full blown romantic love. Other times it’s external forces, distance, different lifestyles, different friends or any number of seemingly difficult barriers to their love. What you rarely see in romantic films is after the “happily ever after” the love story ends at or directly after the agreement the characters have to be together. In Monica & David we’re given a glimpse into a couple’s life after marriage with circumstances and difficulties that are unfamiliar and far more challenging than most experience. The titular characters in this documentary have Down syndrome (which most in the film simply refer to as “Down’s”). Monica’s cousin asked to film their lives for a short period after their marriage, the film starts shortly before the wedding and ends on Monica and David’s first anniversary.
Having personally known very few people with Down syndrome, watching a documentary film about the day to day lives of people affected by it, as well as their family was interesting in it’s own right. It’s an emotional and beautiful love story about two people going through life with the aid of their family. Monica’s mother presents the dichotomy that fuels the film by explaining that people with Down’s need as much independence as possible, while at the same time needing a large amount of help from those closest to them. The obstacles in this film aren’t just Monica and David’s; rather they are shared by family and friends. While Monica and David talk about wanting Children, Monica’s parent’s concern is that, should that happen, they will be responsible for the care of the child. Monica and David want to get jobs, but David’s mother worries about how people will treat him should he get a position in customer service. Monica’s mother puts the situation in perspective when she says that in trying to make them feel normal by protecting them from the world, she inadvertently treats them as if they are different.
The film aspect of the documentary is well done. We’re treated to the fly-on-the-wall treatment, making it easy to forget that the families have to deal with a film crew following their daily activities. The editing of the footage allows us to see some of the highlights of their lives, we watch as they must maneuver big changes in their lives as well as go through their daily routines. The lifestyle that centers around supporting and caring for those with Down syndrome is, in this case, a shining example of love.
Where this documentary thrives that most romantic narratives fail is it’s honest look into the lives of it’s stars. While the movie is sweet and incredibly enjoyable, we’re not given any false ideas about anyone’s lives getting easier through their marriage. Responsibility is shifted around a bit, and in the course of the year that the film takes place, new medical problems arise for the couple. However everything is dealt with in love. The problems are faced head on, they are overcome and the families move on to face new challenges. For more information about the film or Down Syndrome and other disabilities, I highly recommend taking a look at their website.