It’s hard not to shed a tear at Chris Bolan’s A Secret Love: Netflix’s latest documentary about two lesbians whose relationship was kept secret for decades. The documentary examines the social climate of the 1950s-60s, when homosexuality was a concept painted in shame by most of society. It was an age when private house parties were often the only venues where gays and lesbians could gather together and express their identities openly.
For female baseball players Terry Donahue and Pat Henschel, this struggle spanned for nearly 70 years. Their relationship bloomed in a time when they were forced to be known publicly only as “very close friends”. When Terry first introduced Pat to her family, the pair presented themselves as cousins. It was not until the film’s production, with the couple in their senior years, that they revealed their true relationship to their family. Despite how long their secret had been kept, they were readily accepted by their loved ones.
Looking at their story through a larger lens, Terry and Pat’s nearly century-long love story is the perfect material for a feature film. It is a grand, adventurous, poignant look at the gains we have made in society over the years, and the sacrifices made to get here. Viewing A Secret Love is like peeking into a family’s personal photo album; browsing through years of milestones and memories. Not all of the film is rooted in the past, however. Much of the film follows Terry and Pat in their old age, content with their lives save for one missing piece: marriage. By the end of A Secret Love, the couple shares their vows in what is certainly one of the most beautiful and heartfelt moments in any documentary this year.