There is a very definite ethical dilemma when it comes to the whole topic of filming any mentally challenged adults to ensure that there is absolutely no question of them ever being exploited. or shown at a disadvantage for mere entertainment. It’s therefore reassuring to know that Dan Sickles one of the co-directors of this compelling new documentary had known Dina the subject for years. She is a member of a support group for adults with disabilities his father had founded, and therefore we get the distinct feeling that this comfortable rapport between her and the filmmakers is built on trust and respect.
49 year old Dina has had her share of traumas. Her husband died, and after that one of her boyfriends tried to stab her to death. She still shows the physical and mental scars of both. Dina is autistic but having survived her past, now has other mental disorders too, which at one point her mother wearily describe as them being like a whole smorgasbord.
The film however starts on a happy note as Dina has decided to get married again. Her 30-something-year-old fiance is Scott who has Aspergers syndrome and who still lives at home with his parents in a cramped house that is not far off qualifying to feature in an episode of the TV show Hoarders. He is sweet and innocent and obviously adores Dina, but needs to be prompted to do even the most simplest intimate things like hold her hand.
When he moves into her apartment they appear to be more like affectionate siblings which is frustrating for the more worldly Dina who wants to be able to consummate their relationships. On a trip to the seaside one day Dina gives the virginal Scott a gift of a copy of The Joy of Sex, and although he admits to having regularly pleasured himself, he still shows no indiction of doing the same for Dina even though he is constantly declaring his undying love.
The film focuses on the days leading up to their wedding and then the days that immediately follow that. They have all the usual anxieties that every couple face regarding their wedding, but they have the support of his family and most of the members of their group who do their very best to make the occasion as successful as possible.
Despite Dina venting to her friends about her sexual frustration, she still doesn’t give up on Scott and his libido, and there is wonderful scene where together they bathe together in a bath shaped like an over-sized Martini glass in their Honeymoon Hotel.
It’a brave call by Sickles and his co-director Antonio Santani as most films that feature adults with any type of disabilities studiously avoids any mention of sexual desire or activity. However it is one that pays of, because for once we get to respect that having different mental abilities than the norm should not preclude one from having some sort of healthy sex life.
We also get to respect the basic fact that these two rather charming totally naive people do not have regular filters and cannot stop just speaking their minds and spouting out the truth regardless of how its lands, or is accepted.
This sophomore feature from Sickles and Santini (the first was the wonderful award-winning Mala Mala) deservedly took the Top Price at Sundance earlier this year, making them filmmakers we definitely need to watch. Starting with Dina and her beautiful and profound story that they tell so well.