“Love is Love.” It’s a hashtag. It’s a T-shirt. It’s a battle cry. In its purest and most simple form, it is the essence of this 2017 independent film. A Million Happy Nows is the story of a couple, Lainey and Eva, who come to terms with the devastating reality of Lainey’s early onset Alzheimer’s disease. The fact that the two women are lesbians is the least remarkable thing about their struggle.
I have to admit that not knowing anything about this film, I had no idea what to expect. Crystal Chappell, who plays Lainey is a Daytime Emmy award-winning actress but what I last saw her in was as one half of the hilarious duo of It Girls on the Stoop - a reality show best described as Absolutely Fabulous stumbles onto The Rachel Ray set after hours. In A Million Happy Nows, this actress's core ability shines as she pulls from her own life - she plays a Daytime Emmy award winning soap opera actress who is relegated to a minor role when she suddenly is unable to deliver her lines. Humiliated, Lainey and Eva (portrayed by Jessica Leccia) retreat to a beach house set far above the canyon.
The next months are punctuated by denial, anger and despair as Lainey and Eva recognize that they are morbidly waiting for Lainey to disappear. They fiercely protect their privacy, keeping their social circle small and their lives hidden from the gossip magazines. With great trepidation they allow in Val, the owner of a local café who lost her husband to Alzheimer’s. Over time, Val morphs from star struck fan to close confidant. Hillary B. Smith in this role rounds out this powerful cast of women, written and produced by Marisa Calin and directed by Albert Alarr.
It comes from a place of great love that Lainey and Eva ultimately surrender to their situation and choose to live for “ a million happy nows”. They break down time into simple joys – evenings of star gazing, small parties, date nights. Ultimately, they go together to look for a memory care facility when the day comes that Eva can no longer keep Lainey safe. The film is deeply poignant but despite the sadness there are moments of sheer happiness and even levity. (Beware the man who makes a move on Eva!)
There is much that remained with me for days after the credits rolled. Haunted me, in fact. Alzheimer’s doesn’t care if you have an Emmy or own a coffee shop. It doesn’t account for beauty or talent. It doesn’t discriminate if you are rich or poor. Or if you are a straight woman or a lesbian. At its core, A Million Happy Nows is the story of love that endures and sustains when tragedy strips away life. When the only thing that matters is love. And Love is Love.
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