Friday, April 23, 2010

Tribeca ’10: Monica & David

Forget the manipulative 1999 Hollywood film The Other Sister (which is indeed highly forgettable). A real life romance between two adults with intellectual disabilities makes far more compelling and life-affirming cinema. The happy couple’s wedding and first year of marriage are captured with honesty and sensitivity in Alexandra Codina’s documentary Monica & David (trailer here), which screens during the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival.

Monica and David are blessed with loving families, including her cousin, filmmaker Codina. However, there are certain people missing from the big wedding celebration. Both birth fathers walked out on them shortly after their diagnoses. Fortunately, their mothers are exceptionally strong women, who always provided for their sometimes considerable needs.

Indeed, Monica’s mother Maria Elena emerges as a particularly notable figure in the film, having raised her daughter mostly on her own, while working her way up from an entry level position to retire as an executive vice president of her travel services company. Though the audience does not spend as much time with David’s mother, it is clear that she also worked hard and sacrificed on her son’s behalf.

To their credit, their parents generally encourage the couple to lead more independent lives and support their plans to wed. Maria Elena and Monica’s stepfather organize an elaborate affair, sparing no apparent expense. When they do tie the knot, there is not a dry eye in the house. Of course, like any newlyweds, Monica and David will face many challenges in their new marriage in the months to come.

M&D might be unapologetically sentimental, but it is also quite truthful. Codina makes it clear these are real people, not saints or symbols. At times, Maria Elena gets frustrated with Monica and David, for reasons we can well understand. Yet, they are endearing young people whose mothers and stepfather are undeniably caring people. Frankly, good people like this ought to be the subject of more documentaries.

With an official running time of 68 minutes, M&D never belabors its points or overstays its welcome. Even those with a taste for edgy cinematic fare will find their story touching. Guaranteed to be an audience favorite, M&D screens at Tribeca on Saturday (4/24), Sunday (4/25), Tuesday (4/27), and Wednesday (4/28).