By Mary M. Dalton
She is an individual and a strong-minded one. I am an individual, and I am a strong-minded woman. Think of two circles starting this way, and think of them having mobility and moving. Many times we are touching. Many, many times we are overlapping. And many times we go our separate ways. It takes both dependence and independence for a relationship to be strong, to survive, and also in our situation, to grow. –Pearl
The overlap is what you both want. And so, if you disagree on the edges, and I like something that she doesn’t, that’s fine, but there’s always something we both could like to eat or there’s some movie that we both would want to see or some restaurant we both would want to eat in or some trip we both want to take. So, if one of us proposes something that the other one doesn’t want, that’s fine, we skip it and go to the one that we both want. And, that’s what I mean by the overlap. And, I think that’s one of the big secrets, I think, but not just for us. I think if all couples did that they might get on better together because I’m sure there’s an overlap for everybody in everything. –Lennie
Lennie and Pearl have compelling personal stories, which is part of what draws them together, and overlapping interests, which is part of what keeps them together. They articulate profound things about their relationship, like the concept of living in the overlap, and the way they have worked out this philosophy in practice is inspiring. A big part of the overlap is their shared commitment to social justice issues, which stretches back decades and is represented in this film mainly by their LGBT advocacy work. They have also talked at length about the role travel has played in drawing them together through many trips over the years that feed their adventurous spirits. Other things exist in the overlap, too, like their love of the fine arts and a deep appreciation of the natural world.
As a filmmaker, I’ve tended toward telling stories about people I find inspirational in one way or another – and these stories usually include the communities that surround and sustain them – but I tend to focus more on who people are than on what they do. Both are important, of course, but it’s the inside-out approach that feels most natural to me. Getting to know Lennie and Pearl has been a joy, and from the very beginning, it’s been their love story that has drawn me in and made me feel a keen desire to make this film. These women have the type of enduring relationship with an intimate partner that I think most people want to have.
For me, as writer and co-director of the film and as a straight woman, part of the larger goal of the project is to help viewers see that Lennie and Pearl are absolutely meant for one another and that differences may exist between good relationships and bad ones but not because partners happen to be gay or straight or somewhere outside of those firm categories. The reductive thinking that goes along with separating groups into binaries leads to an “us” and “them” way of thinking about the world that is dangerous. We adopted a personal essay approach to this film with the intention of complicating those binaries and disrupting preconceptions that go along with them. I believe that relationships between partners that expand the world for both of them, offer intellectual connection, deep bonding, and a sustained romantic spark are a little bit rare. I’ve watched a lot of relationships closely over the years and have found few that I admire and even fewer that make me think, “That’s like what I want.” They way Lennie and Pearl have structured their lives together lets me know that this type of relationship is possible and sustainable.