By Don Simpson | December 22, 2011
Director: Alexandra Codina
Alexandra Codina’s Monica & David documents the budding love story of a young couple with Down syndrome. Codina begins filming Monica and David two weeks prior to their wedding day and continues to roll tape until their one year anniversary. Codina is Monica’s cousin, a relationship that allows her the unique privilege of what appears to be an all-access pass to document the ups and downs of Monica and David’s first year together. Like an annoying uncle with a brand new video camera, Codina refuses to back away from arguments or tears, lending Monica & David a uniquely personal perspective; and if Codina ever flexes any directorial influence upon her subjects, it is never noticeable.
Even the interviews seem extremely candid and unrehearsed. Codina does not shy away from asking the difficult questions, including what will happen to Monica and David after their parents die. (Monica and David reside with Monica’s mother and step-father.) And that brings us to an intriguing statistic revealed at the beginning of Monica & David: as of 1983, adults with Down syndrome were only expected to live until the age of 25 years old whereas now they live well into their 60s. It is this drastic increase in lifespan that now allows for people with Down syndrome to experience long-term romantic relationships, but it has also changed how care for people with Down syndrome is approached.
There is absolutely no doubt that Monica and David are blissfully in love. They really want to experience their lives together while becoming increasingly independent of any immediate family support. Monica and David recognize that in order to achieve their desired level of independence they will need to earn their own incomes; but while Monica and David are fully capable adults, their parents — who are still afraid of society’s historical rejection of adults with intellectual disabilities — express their natural hesitations regarding this arrangement.
Chock full of humor and emotion, Codina utilizes a fly-on-the wall perspective to reveal the reality of Monica and David’s story. First and foremost, Codina never patronizes her subjects or their disability; Monica and David are treated just like any other couple. Down syndrome might always be an elephant in the room, but Monica & David holds true at being a documentary about two people who are hopelessly in love with each other and the day-to-day trials and tribulations they must face.
Winner of the Best Documentary at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival, Monica & David was recently released on DVD by New Video.