What do you think of when you picture a decades-long love? Depending on who you are and where you live in the world, it more than likely looks different person to person. But, it probably all boils down to one simple thing: a mutual partnership between two people who really, truly care about one another. Netflix’s latest documentary series,
My Love: Six Stories of True Love ,
tries to capture just what this means all over the globe, taking us into the lives of six different couples who have all been together for over 40 years. The episodes, helmed by directors from each corresponding country, all focus on a different partnership, geographical region, and culture. It wasn’t an easy feat to undertake, let alone locate
six couples well over the age of 50
who were willing to let a camera crew into their home for an entire year.
“When we were building the series, [one of the first things we did was] talk about what a healthy relationship looks like to us,” Xan Aranda, showrunner and co-executive producer, explained over the phone to Refinery29 in early April. “Not only that, but what are the social and political implications of a story from their countries in this time, encompassing a life span between this couple?”
There was no casting call for the series, so the filmmakers literally had to go door to door. But the couples they chose were “people who would never have responded in the first place to a casting call.”
“We wanted to know, how do they spend their time now?” Aranda continued. “Do they appreciate each other and observable ways? Are they socially active? Are they connected to their culture? We thought it was really important that they be connected to their community or at least their families, in some way so that it's not just a story between them, but [their surroundings].”
While each of the six episodes is a complete, self-contained story, the filmmakers were with the couples for a solid year so not everything made it into the final product. Luckily, Aranda was able to share a few gems that ended up on the cutting room floor.
One thing to note is that a few couples are seen celebrating the start of a new year — 2020, to be exact. While some documentaries tend to wrap up with an explainer of where the subjects are now,
offers no update as to where anyone is now, let alone if they survived the pandemic. Rest assured, Aranda confirms everyone is doing okay, but anything related to COVID was cut from the series — even though one pairing did weather some (temporary) challenges during the early months of 2020.
Episode 1: David and Ginger — USA The Isham Family Farm has been in David and Ginger’s family for over 100 years, but now as they’re approaching their later years in life both know it’s time to hand it over to the capable hands of their adult son. While they’re not in charge of the day-to-day anymore, David and Ginger still spend time in and around the farm, welcoming guests, as they’re a long-time staple. Additionally, the two spend time making arrangements for their family once they’re gone, so none of their children have to handle that burden themselves. What You Didn’t See On Screen Something you don’t see happen when David and Ginger climb into bed is lots of giggling, but behind the scenes there was, well, a lot of it. Because of the setup to capture the couple’s quiet moments, reading separately in bed before they shut off the lights, the filmmakers actually had to be in there with them. This episode’s director, Elaine McMillion Sheldon, also worked as her own cinematographer, which meant that sometimes it was just the three of them hanging out in the bedroom. “It was like, Ginger and David in bed, and Elaine in there [with] maybe a boom mic,” Aranda said. “I know that there were a lot of [complications] that first night of just like, setting off the light.” The episode ends with not just one wedding but two different ceremonies — one for their son Mike and his new wife Helen, and also David and Ginger reaffirming their vows. There’s actually a lot of parallel between Helen and Ginger, per Aranda: “They both come from the same tiny town. The only difference is that Helen and Mike met online.” Photo: Courtesy of Netflix. Episode 2: Nati and Augusto — Spain Augusto has worked as a shepherd in the countryside his whole life, and as a complete stranger remarks to him at one point in the episode, “That’s a disappearing trade.” After he fails his driver’s test and alter finds himself admitted to the hospital, he relies more and more on his wife, Nati, who’s got problems of her own — namely, reminding Augusto that he promised her a trip to the beach and he’s yet to take her. What You Didn’t See On Screen The camera crews were instructed to be as non-intrusive as possible, but in the case of Spain’s Nati and Augusto, they did actually help get the couple out of their shell. The episode opens with Augusto losing his driver’s license, hindering the couple’s ability to travel — and Augusto has long promised Nati a trip to the beach, something she’s eager to remind him of, time and time again. “I do think that they felt more emboldened [to travel] because the crew would do with them. Once you lose a driver's license, you feel very vulnerable in the world and I think they felt they couldn't do it.That's one of the rare occasions when I think our intervention was supportive of their courage.” Sadly one beach scene that was cut involved the couple getting ice cream. “Sitting on the balcony, Nati really wants some ice cream. They realize that they can just call room service, which they’ve never done before. It’s so delightful. They ordered ice cream, they get these little ice cream bars, and [sit] on the balcony together. It’s so good.” Photo: Courtesy of Netflix. Episode 3: Haruhei and Kinuko — Japan Haruhei and Kinuko met in a hospital — he was forcibly there because of his leprosy, while she was working as support staff in the building. It was Kinuko who encouraged Haruhei to leave and re-enter the world, and the two would later go on to marry. Now, it’s Kinuko who finds herself with health complications, and Haruhei is there right by her side through all of it. What You Didn’t See On Screen While Kinuko does sing a quick little ditty about love in the episode, what you don’t get is the full picture told by that song. According to Aranda, Kinuko “worships” Haruhei, and it’s an interesting word choice, but one that clearly encompasses the decades-long love between these two. “She sings a song to a melody, like a classic Japanese melody but she made up a song about him, of how much she worships him. It's always exciting to see couples worship each other, but it was a little disturbing if it's just like a woman was worshipping her husband.” Aranda says. “But in this case, her worshipping this man, who had had such a rough life, who has not lived in the easiest place in society and she's so besotted with him, even in old age, she wrote a song about him and that will never be lost on me.” Another great standout that was trimmed for the episode? “Watching them argue about how to do laundry.” Photo: Courtesy of Netflix. Episode 4: Saengja and Yeongsam — Korea Saengja and Yeongsam work as abalone farmers, and continue to work well into their later years in life, always showing up when their family needs their help. However, years of farming are starting to take a toll on their physical health, especially for Saengja, who might not be able to handle the labor anymore. There’s sadly a reason they threw themselves into work, as they're still grappling with the passing of their adult son. What You Didn’t See On Screen Episode 4 is the only one to end with an actual song and dance number performed by Saengja and Yeongsam. It’s a charming moment — they’re performing thanks to some family encouragement — and while we see the finished product, what we sadly don’t see is them rehearsing. “Something that we cut, which killed us to cut, was their rehearsal at home. One of them is singing into a hairbrush. They're sitting singing it to each other, and practicing and it was really so cute and if there could be a three hour cut of each episode, that would be in there,” Aranda said. Another thing left on the cutting room floor was just how much kimchi the family made. It was, apparently, a lot. “We had to cut down the kimchi — so much more kimchi.” Photo: Courtesy of Netflix. Episode 5: Jurema and Nicinha — Brazil Jurema and Nicinha met at a party forty years ago and have been together ever since. They now live together with their ever-growing, sprawling family composed of their children and grandchildren, and there's always someone coming or going in their home. While Jurema has since retired, Nicinha continues to work because the two do everything “without the help of a man.” Five years ago they purchased land in Guandu, about three hours outside of Rio, where they’ve decided to build a country home to retire. What You Didn’t See On Screen The major thing you didn’t see in their episode was the beginning of the COVID pandemic. When it first hit Rio de Janeiro in 2020, the filmmakers evacuated the couple to the countryside to ride out the worst of it. Now, thankfully, they’re able to travel back and forth between their two homes. Towards the end of the episode, the two women head to the beach to reminisce about their wedding day, and quickly turn to talking about the first time they met each other’s parents and extended family, a conversation Aranda notes is about “being accepted.” “That scene actually used to be the same setting, different topics,” said Aranda, noting that the episode’s director eventually switched the topic. “Moments of vulnerability between two women...their love is not legal nor surface celebrated and is oftentimes dangerous for people in Brazil. To know that even decades ago there was acceptance on a family level was really important and beautiful to be seen and accepted.” Photo: Courtesy of Netflix. Episode 6: Satyabhama and Satva — India Satyabhama and Satva didn’t meet before they were married, and now — 42 years later — their love for one another is still growing strong. Working as cotton farmers, they’re learning to care for one another in new ways as they enter their later years, while juggling looking after the younger and older generations. What You Didn’t See On Screen One moment that was unfortunately cut from Satyabhama and Satva’s story in India involved a cup of tea. While Satyabhama is off visiting her ailing mother, Satva stays behind with the grandkids. “The grandkids are making tea, and they ask their grandfather, whether or not he knows how to make tea. It's a very generational thing,” Aranda said. This ties back to the greater story of Satyabhama and Satva and how they’ve inverted some customary gender roles in their relationship. “Any kind of touch between those two things that's not really entirely common there, and a lot of the consideration, you know, the idea that he would go gather water on her behalf when it's absolutely only a woman's job. Satva shows his regard for her as his partner in the face of what a village or a society thinks.” Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
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