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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Our House
Our House
First Run Features // Unrated // May 20, 2008
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Cameron McGaughy | posted May 27, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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"Children are taken away from their parents every day because the parents are gay. All of her life that's been a big fear of mine." - Sophia

The Movie
Originally broadcast on public television in 2000, this 56-minute documentary from Meema Spadola offers brief glimpses into five families with at least one gay parent. It's a simple, sometimes heartbreaking look at the struggles both the parents and children go through.

We first meet gay Long Island couple Rob and Jon, who have adopted five children. Jessica (age 9) and Daniel (13) answer questions by the unseen shooter, mostly concerning the reaction they get from schoolmates. Spadola also asks many of the kids in the feature if they have to address assumptions that they are gay as well. "It just annoys me, because time after time I have to keep on talking about it," says Daniel, adding he wished he could get everyone into a room to tell them all about his family. "I'd be free for the whole rest of my life not answering them anymore."

The most heartbreaking story comes from Arkansas, where lesbians Sophia and Vickie have each brought a child into their union. Vickie's son Cary (23) is joined by Sophia's daughter Ryan (15), who has been the subject of frequent (and often vicious) teasing at school. The taunts started after she excitedly told people about her mom's wedding. "I only had four friends out of 300 seventh graders, and I lost them one by one," Ryan says. The abuse goes unpunished by administrators, prompting the couple to remove Ryan from the school. "We can create an entire world that affirms our being," Vickie says. "And then we can turn on the television set and see a commercial on TV that condemns us to hell."

In Arizona, Mormon couple Jan and Dwight has divorced after he comes out of the closet. "I believe that Dwight was biologically born with a predisposition toward homosexuality," says Jan. "What he chooses to do with that during his life is up to him." They have two daughters: Danna (14) and Ember (16). Danna struggles with finding happiness, while Ember starts to question how she can continue following a faith that condemns her father: "There's no way I could not love my dad because he's a homosexual," she says, adding that her bishop told her that her father was bad--but should be forgiven. "I didn't want to forgive him...what had he done wrong?" The family copes, and the religious tilt to their story provides a fascinating watch.

In New Jersey, lesbian couple Pat and Rochelle is raising Rochelle's two sons, Sandor (13) and Saveon (9)--who seem to be at different stages in their willingness to talk about the situation, a reflection on their personalities (one of the more revealing sequences has Saveon filming and interviewing his older brother). They live in a loving environment, but when we meet father Butch, we know the kids probably get another message. "To me, no child is going to accept their mother as a lesbian because of the society we are brought up in," he says. When Spadola asks him if he wished society was more accepting, he says no. "That's not the way this culture is made. If you allow them to stray, they'll fall victim to their environment." We also meet Pat's older children, including Ivoire (16).

The final stop is New York City, where lesbians Sandy and Robin have two daughters after being artificially inseminated. Ry (17) is approaching high school graduation and has her first serious boyfriend, while Cade (19) talks about the realization that she was a lesbian. Her transformation concerns her mothers. "She certainly changed a lot, and some of it's hard for us," says Sandy. This family is one of the less stressed ones we encounter, until we soon learn that a lawsuit from Ky's sperm donor--who seeks a declaration of paternity--threatens to alter their lives.

This documentary doesn't have any political agenda: It just opens a window on five families and has them talk. Spadola lets her subjects share what they want, and asks few questions. This is an interesting look at kids and parents with some unique challenges, but we quickly see that these children are just like any others. My only complaint is that the film barely reaches an hour. You get the feeling Spadola just scratches the surface, and I could watch these lives unfold for hours.

The DVD

Video:
Presented in its original full-frame aspect ratio, this presentation has no major issues to detract from the experience. It looks just like any documentary you would see on public broadcasting.

Audio:
Presented in stereo sound, this track works just fine for the dialogue-driven documentary.

Extras:
Up first is an interview (7:19) with director/writer Meema Spadola, and subject Ky Russo-Young, now a budding filmmaker. Spadola talks about her childhood--which served as the inspiration for this work--and her process for selecting the families. She notes that if a documentary like this was around when she was growing up, it would have "radically changed my life." Ky also talks about what the process was like. Next we get family follow-ups (12:46) for four of the subjects (oddly, the New Jersey family is absent). Text updates are provided for the Arkansas and Long Island families, but brief video interviews are included for the other two. Ry sits down with her two moms as they reminisce, but the most interesting developments come from sisters Danna and Ember in Arizona. Also included are a DVD-Rom discussion guide, a list of website resources, a text biography of Spadola and trailers for other First Run Features releases.

Final Thoughts:
A short and sweet documentary that looks into the lives of five families with at least one gay parent, Our House is a labor of love from director Meema Spadola. She refrains from making any statements and just lets the parents and the kids talk about their unique challenges--and we quickly learn that these families are just like so many others. My only wish is that the film ran longer. This is recommended for documentary buffs and those interested in gay and lesbian cinema. For others, it's a great watch--although the short running time and replay value would best be served if you Rent It.

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