In the new documentary From This Day Forward, soon-to-be-married director Sharon Shattuck asks herself, How do my parents do it? Her moms, Trisha and Marcia, are quietly tender and affectionate, greeting each other with kisses, holding hands on walks in the woods. It looks easy, though of course it isn’t.
Trisha came out to her family as transgender only after years of living as a man; they’ve mostly accepted it, except when they haven’t. The complex family dynamics are fascinating, and they make for an engaging (if sometimes troubling) film. What’s the difference between the life we want and a life that looks like the one we want? Speaking frankly to Sharon’s camera, both Trisha and Marcia separately describe the tremendous work of making a marriage and keeping it. Love is a choice, they say — they choose each other again and again, seizing the good moments and accepting the bad ones.
There is some bad: One of Trisha’s daughters won’t use Trisha’s preferred pronouns, and Marcia, who continues to identify as straight, wants Trisha to wear a tuxedo to Sharon’s wedding. Watching these small, ordinary difficulties has a wearying effect. The film is ostensibly about how the Shattucks have stayed together, but what’s most interesting and moving is how Trisha manages to accept the casual bigotry of her family and to love them anyway. Trisha is a dedicated mushroom hunter and a tremendous painter. Her impressionistic landscapes fill the screen: a couple embracing from behind, a barn with a roof like a wing, a line of trees after van Gogh. Only a fraction of Trisha’s inner life makes it into the film.
No, love isn’t sweeping; it’s putting brush to canvas and hand to hand. It’s accepting imperfections. But it’s also being willing to recognize the people we love for who they are, to note our own flaws and work to change them.
From This Day Forward
Directed by Sharon Shattuck
Opens June 24, IFC Center