A secret love deserves to not be kept a secret anymore. It’s cheesy to say but the story of Terry Donahue and Pat Henschel should have been said much sooner. Terry Donahue is already a legend on her own, being one of the inspirations behind the great movie A League of their Own. She might have been one of the few women that played professional baseball when that was still not the norm for women but maybe what is the most impressive, and sad, is how who she is was never known, not only to the public but to her family until just a few years ago. Their story deserves to be told and A Secret Love tries to do them justice but the short run time and the overstuffing of the documentary impairs it from going in deeper in their story and a lot gets lost in the process.
Terry Donahue and Pat Henschel’s story deserves to be known, a story about love and support no matter what. Seeing and hearing them talk about each other is the best part of this documentary. The way you can hear the love pour out of every word they say about one another. Their story is one that too often is forgotten, we don’t talk about those relationships that we now too often take for granted. There is a moment in the documentary were as they are packing up their house to move, they find old letters that they used to write for another. It’s a tender moment that could have been just that but when asked why the letters are all ripped at the bottom, they admit that they use to do that so that no one knew that they were two women writing to each other. It’s a sad reality check and the more they talk about how they never told anyone about each other, that just three years ago most of their families didn’t even know they were a couple is heartbreaking. We take certain things for granted now and the more we talk about what happened before, the more we can start making actual changes in our society.
The thing that, for me, made me enjoy this film a lot less was the continuous focus on other things than the relationship between the two women. A lot of attention is given to their family and how learning about the two often affected them and I often found myself wishing to just go back to their story. I understand the point of going into the family’s reaction to their relationship but it took away a lot of the momentum that was created when the couple was first introduced. The family never feels like complete characters because we don’t spend enough time with them and so they simply become commentary in the story we follow. They never add anything really to the story and instead slow everything down. The stars of the documentary are Terry and Pat and going into other stories and issues then their relationship takes away from what the film is trying to do.
The documentary feels very intimate and a lot of that can probably be awarded to the fact that the director of the documentary, Chris Bolan, also happens the great-nephew of Terry and Pat. The film has this feel to it that makes it even more tender. The love that Pat and Terry have for each other pours out of the screen and you can feel the emotions. The love that is poured in the documentary feels genuine and real and it’s probably the best asset the film has. The love that you feel makes your heart melt but also breaks it over and over again. It’s a sad story but it’s also full of love and hope. A story that deserves to be told and the fact that someone from their own family got to tell it helps greatly.
A Secret Love might suffer from being overstuffed but that doesn’t change the fact that Pat and Terry’s story deserves to be heard. It’s a love story that transcends time and even the shaky documentary doesn’t take away from that. It might not be perfect but love isn’t either and maybe that is okay.