Documentary filmmmaker Jill Andresevic's latest prject, Love Etc., ironically lacks the very thing that its title declares that it's supposed to be about: love. Following five New York couples of varying ages, and at different stages in their relationships, the film boasts an intriguing concept but unfortunately fails to develop any of its stories. Except for one couple, we are virtually unmoved by the various characters’ relationships. While it successfully avoids becoming merely a soap opera, the film still leaves us bored, and just becomes a less than memorable portrait of New Yorkers looking for love, finding it, and losing it just as quickly.
The picture depicts a few months out of each couple’s relationship through interviews and observations of their everyday lives. Ethan is a construction working, skateboarding, single father of two teenagers, who just wants to find a partner to help him take care of himself and his kids. When he meets the mother of his son’s best friend, he stumbles his way through their short-lasting relationship, letting his immaturity, drinking, and smoking get in the way of something he so desperately wants to work out.
Chitra and Mahendra are seen in the months before and after their traditional Indian wedding. Mahendra’s pressure from his wife, a paralegal, to find a job puts an extra strain on their already tense relationship. Scott wants nothing more than to find the perfect companion, but his marriage to his job as a Broadway producer and his desire to have children raise a red flag to potential partners.
High school seniors Gabriel and Danielle are in the first serious relationship either one has ever had, but Danielle’s acceptance to Dartmouth leaves a giant question mark on the fate of their relationship with the immanent separation that college life brings to any young couple. Albert and Marion have been married for 48 years, and with Marion now suffering the onset of dementia, their love for each other in old age grows even stronger.
Except for Albert and Marion’s relationship, we see virtually no progression in the other partnerships. We are thrust into the love lives of the various players with no real background information on them or their respective romantic pasts. We know that Ethan is divorced with two kids, that Chitra and Mahendra have been engaged for a few years, that Scott is unlucky in love, and that Gabriel and Danielle are bound for separation as college approaches.
This is essentially the only information we are given about the couples. By the end of the film, we wish that we knew how they met and what their previous relationships, if any, were like. While the film gives us very brief updates on their lives during the closing credits, we are still left wanting to know more. Because we cannot become invested in the couples’ lives, we are therefore left unable to invest much in the film itself either.
The only true insight we get in any of the couples is with Albert and Marion. We know that they lived in the same neighborhood and met when piano-playing Jazz enthusiast Albert was looking for a lyricist and found Marion, and that they spent the majority of their marriage trying to write a hit song. The emergence of Marion’s failing health, in combination with their quest to write the next big hit, makes their relationship the most touching and memorable out of all those haphazardly depicted here.
Even when they are bickering, we are still moved by their unending devotion to each other. In one particularly tender scene, Albert brings Marion to a music festival in Brooklyn, where Marion, even in her crumbling mental state, lights up as jazz singer and performs the song they wrote together so many years ago. The other lazily illustrated relationships simply take the backseat to Albert and Marion’s adoring marriage.
Because we don’t particularly care for the film’s couples except for just one, we thus don’t exactly care for this film. In combination with random montages of people walking down the street of different New York neighborhoods (we get it, there are lots of people in New York looking for companionship), the film leaves us less than enthralled. We couldn’t care less if the other characters find and keep love. The longtime and devoted married couple is the only true reason for seeing this messy and misguided documentary.