Film Reviews

REVIEW: Over the Rainbow

Hot Docs 2015

Netherlands, 39 min.
Directed by Tara Fallaux
International Premiere

Over The Rainbow is a heartwarming, it’s-never-too-late, portrait of Leny, a Dutch woman who discovered her sexual identity as a lesbian at the tender age of 68. We meet her on a beach, looking out to the sea, reflecting on falling in love with a woman for the first time—and at first sight. A love story involving the tropics, bicycling, and instant physical attraction opens Leny up to her glorious, authentic self.

Cut to a packed, dimly lit discothèque blaring music by The Village People. Leny is whooping it up, surrounded by smiling, happy women. Now on the cusp of 80, she’s having the time of her life. She goes on camping trips with other lesbians, is a popular presence on Facebook, and strives to keep healthy amid growing health concerns. She kayaks, goes hiking, as well as doing daily exercises at home. Leny’s joie de vivre is inspiring: zooming on the back of a moped with another woman along the dusty terrain of Sappho’s Lesbos seems like just another day in the life for our protagonist. Given that many people feel isolated in their later years, it’s also inspiring how warmly and enthusiastically she’s enfolded into the lesbian community.

The end credits reveal that the director is related to her main subject, lending a relaxed atmosphere for optimal intimacy: we see Leny coming home from the disco, getting into bed; by day, relaxing watching sports on TV or getting ready to go out. Throughout, she reflects on ageing, love, loneliness, self-acceptance, and gratitude. The best moments are the hugs and kisses love fests with other women. Be it at the disco, teeming and hot pink Gay Pride in Amsterdam, or, the film’s highlight, her 80th birthday party in Lesbos, Leny loves the ladies—-and they love her, too. The party draws 200 women to the island. Although it’s unclear who they are and where they came from, one assumes that it’s through social media that the party’s been arranged. Relaxing on the beach, drinking cocktails and sharing stories with new friends, Leny seems at peace.

Even so, Over The Rainbow has a bittersweet undertone. Aside from Leny’s sunny dyke life, she admits to having a deep fear of rejection and regret over the unresolved ending of her first, and only, love affair. She admits being resolved to never finding such love again. One hopes for that happy ending: Leny falls in love again! Instead, the doc is an honest depiction of enjoying life for what it is.

The main drawback of Over the Rainbow is the film’s length. Not often does one want the documentary to be longer; it’s usually the other way round. But clocking in at less than 40 minutes, there isn’t enough time to add the context of Leny’s “previous” life. It is a missing key in the film. We learn a little of her early years, promising to be a caretaker to her dying mother. While we see some archival photographs of Leny’s early life and adulthood, there is nothing from her mid-life to bridge the chronology. As a viewer, I feel denied, learning during the Q & A, that Leny was once an avid participant in the world famous Elfstedentocht, a 200 KM, 11 city ice skating tour through Europe. That footage would have been a visual asset in fleshing out her already fully-lived life. The take-away and “pot of gold” of Over The Rainbow: carpe diem (seize the day). Embrace life as much as possible and strive to emulate the uplifting example that is great-aunt Leny.

Hot Docs 2015 Screenings
Sun May 3, 9:00 PM
TIFF Bell Lightbox

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Noelle Elia is an artist, writer and filmmaker whose politics are based in aesthetics and emotional connection. Interested in what makes us similar rather than different, she searches for common threads as a way to get inside this never-ending question.

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