The documentary Some Kind of Love takes us into the lives of several family members; their fractured relationships, and for some their disintegration due to illness.
In the film, we come to know artist and designer Yolanda Sonnabend, 77, who lives surrounded by a half century of paintings, sculptures, frames, fabrics, books, and the ephemera of her imagination. Her glory days are certainly behind her. Her ailing health, due to early signs of dementia, has required her older brother to move in to assist her.
Dr. Joseph Sonnabend, 79, is the renowned New York AIDS doctor famous for coining the term ‘safe sex‘, and for discovering one of the building blocks of the virus. After a career committed to science and patients, Joseph has returned to England, a country he has little affection for, to a house he hates, and his sister with her early signs of dementia. Bound by duty, he struggles to cope with Yolanda’s deterioration.
Into this mix comes their step-nephew, filmmaker Thomas Burstyn, who arrives to make a documentary. During the course of filming, we are privy to their family dysfunctions, their differences in lifestyle and outlook on life. Throughout the film, we are confined to Yolanda’s cluttered home. She has refused to discard much anything over the years, and barely has space to sleep. As someone in the film describes it, “her home is too visual to take in”. Amidst the clutter, we hear Yolanda speak about her past, reminisce about her work, talk about her lovers. This makes one realize she’s had a full life. Yet she’s not truly happy, as she admits to being bitter about not having had a child with one of her lovers. In times of lucidity, one can see her big and attractive personality come through. As her health declines, her spunk diminishes and she becomes much more difficult to interact with.
Joseph is not too keen to have Thomas film him nor Yolanda. His commentary during the film is honest, at times hurtful, yet without ill intentions. He cannot understant Yolanda’s artistic fervour, even when his scientific work required just as much passion. He states he has no passion. Joseph also seems fractured in some way. He is adamant about being filmed and not wanting his sister to appear in a negative way. He tells Thomas that the film will not necessarily be truthful, as it will have Thomas’ own spin to it. And to a degree, Joseph is right.
In following the lives of these two eccentric people, Thomas shares his recent history and decides to amend his estranged relationship with his own brother. Some Kind of Love is a film mainly about family relations. It also points to the high needs dementia patients require; the sacrifices families make in such situations. The film also reminds us of the, sometimes, uncomfortable role of the filmmaker as voyeur, and family member.
The films is currently screening in Toronto at the Carlton Cinema until June 18. Visit the cinema’s website for scheduled times.