A Secret Love - Lilith Likes to Watch Documentary December 2021

Title: A Secret Love
Starring:Terry Donahue, Pat Henschel
Director: Chris Bolan
Synopsis: Falling in love in 1947, two women -- Pat Henschel and pro baseball player Terry Donahue -- begin a 65-year journey of love and overcoming prejudice. - Via IMDB
Lilith's Notes: The story of girl's baseball was made popular in the film A League of Their Own


"They've always been Auntie Terry and Auntie Pat."

A trailer, or commercial can tell a person one reality, and when you watch the final product, a different reality is revealed. Such is the power of advertising.

A Secret Love is the story of  Pat and Terry, two women who fell in love in the 40s. Terry was a baseball player in the All-American Girl's Professional Baseball League, a pioneer for women and feminism everywhere. She meets Pat, and it's instant love. This movie was sold to me as a trip down memory lane, a dual history of two women who had been in love for decades, and the struggles they shared in a world less open and accepting as we tell ourselves it is now.

That's all there, for about 10 percent of the run-time. The rest is Pat plays tug of war with Terry's family while they bicker about what nursing home the couple is going to be dumped in.

There are shadows of some great history, of their gaggle of queer friends, of late-night parties filled with drinking and dancing. Of acceptance. There is mention of a thriving underground club scene, but, of course, Pat and Terry never went to those clubs because they were so careful of their relationship they wouldn't go out looking for trouble.

They weren't those kinds of girls.

A Secret Love is a strange experience because everyone is kind of a horrible person. I couldn't shake the feeling that Pat is a possessive, jealous woman who has some sort of control over Terry, while Terry's family feel they know what's best for her in an uncomfortably patronizing, virginal, WASPy way.

Terry has wants. She has goals, and everyone around her are all acting as millstones around her aging neck. According to the film she still had a sharp mind, and autonomy. She tries to assert herself but it constantly shot down. It's sad.

And yet, despite how bullheaded and commanding Pat can be, there are moments that truly show the love she has for Terry. Poems written by Pat to Terry are read for the camera and they are beautiful and so heartfelt. We're told tales of them kissing in the middle of a sandstorm, and they were both adamant that their love was nobody's business but their own, and I can't say I disagree. But, you don't get the sense that Terry was a lesbian, just merely Pat-sexual.

This film also has no sense of time. In one scene, Terry or Pat will be spry, and in the next, they're bed-ridden and wheelchair bound. How much time has elapsed? Why is she in a hospital bed? Did she fall? Have a stroke? "They're just old" isn't a satisfying story. I need context.

Despite Pat's constant reticence, the pair move into a retirement home in Canada and get married. It's sweet that they tie the knot, and it's certainly past time. Despite that, this entire documentary is lacking. What was sold to me as an epic love story set amidst decades of adversity just...wasn't. The couple seemed on the periphery. Like I said, they weren't those kind of people. They were the good ones.

And that doesn't make for a very inspiring story.

Now, excuse me while I go re-watch A League of Their Own for the 50th time.

Best Moment: Hearing Pat's love letters to Terry.

Worst Moment: The lack of context. At one point they argue about money and they were unnecessarily vague about it.


Until next time, my voracious voyeurs. I’m Lilith, and I’m always watching.

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