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The Journal Of The InnKeeper
Ranty Lessons by Joreth
Poly Movie Review - Carrington 
4th-Aug-2008 12:16 am
Purple Mobius, polyamory

I've thought about including movie reviews over at The Poly Bookclub, but it's really not set up for that, so I'll just write about them here.

I watched a movie tonight that was recommended on a very long list of "poly" movies.  Many of the movies on the list are more about cheating and being forced to choose between partners, so I was somewhat skeptical.  But Carrington proved to be an exception.  

I found this movie to be an excellent example of polyamory ... before the word existed.

Carrington (1995)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112637/ - Internet Movie Data Base
http://www.netflix.com/WatchNowMovie/Carrington/60021616?trkid=226890 - rent it from Netflix
http://www.amazon.com/Carrington-Emma-Thompson/dp/B00005R5GC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1217823713&sr=1-1 - Amazon.com

This movie is based on the real-life characters of Dora Carrington and Lytton Strachey.  Unfortunately, it left out her lesbian relationships, but I suppose there are only so many stories one can tell in a single 2-hour movie.

Carrington is an independent, tomboyish, self-sufficent woman who insists on remaining so.  She developes a life-long emotional bond with a gay man named Lytton, who co-exist mostly happily together (they also live together and even share a bed).  Neither of them understand "jealousy" and seek out external sexual relationships.  Some of which they each approve, others they do not, but they always accept each other's other partners as simply part of loving each other.

Carrington herself develops some emotional attachments in her sexual relationships, but what makes this a truly exceptional movie is that everyone knows.

There is some lying and deceit - this is, after all, the 1920s, but for the most part, this is simply the way it is and all the partners must accept that.  Carrington is quite clear that she will not leave her life with Lytton, for example, when her various lovers ask her to.  Carrington's first lover while living with Lytton is a man that appears to also be Lytton's lover.  The movie was never very clear on that, but they do show all three sleeping in the same bed together with Ralph (prounced "Rafe") (the new lover) in the middle and Lytton very clearly flirting and being affectionate with him.

Later, Lytton encourages Carrington to marry Ralph (who threatens to leave them both if she doesn't) so long as Lytton doesn't lose Carrington in the process, and all 3 end up cohabitating together, even all going on the honeymoon together.  Eventually the marriage falls apart as Ralph takes mistresses and Carrington takes a lover, Gerald.  Ralph becomes jealous over Carrington's lover, however, who happens to be one of Ralph's oldest friends.

Later, it appears as though the marriage has ended, but not the family, as Ralph & Carrington remain legally married and Ralph continues to live and contribute to the household of Carrington and Lytton.  He brings another woman into the household who appears to be his new primary partner, Frances.  As the relationship with Frances deepens, Lytton has a private discussion with her about how this will change things because he and Carrington still depend on Ralph.  Frances seeks to find a compromise of her new life with Ralph and his existing life with Carrington and Lytton.  This is a wonderful example of metamours working together and communicating directly about the process of adding a new member to the family.

Lytton eventually brings his newest lover home for the weekends and Carrington develops yet another passion of her own.  In one memorable scene, Ralph, Frances, Lytton, his new boy, and Carrington's new flame are all enjoying an evening in the house together while Carrington watches from the outside.

Finally, when Lytton falls ill, all the current members of the group gather together to care for Lytton and keep each other company.  In one scene, Carrington is sitting at a table with Ralph and Gerald (it is unclear if Ralph was ever told the truth about them, even after the jealous rage he went into when he first suspected).  Later, we see Ralph and Frances showing hesitation at leaving Carrington alone in the house with her worry, including a very warm hug between Carrington and Frances.

Unfortunately, all the other reviews seem to think this was about unrequited love.  It's true that Carrington wants more from her relationship with Lytton than she is able to receive (due to his homosexuality, although it is believed they did share some element of sexuality), but I do not believe it is "unrequited".  Both characters clearly adore each other and both recognize that they cannot fulfill each other's every need.  Both characters also find sexual and some emotional fulfillment from their other relationships, even when some of those relationships have an ending while their's lasts for their lifetimes.  While Carrington displays upset whenever Lytton takes a new lover, both Carrington and Lytton understand that there are simply some roles they can never fulfill for each other and encourage each other to find happiness, whever it might be, while continuing to hold on to each other for the emotional fulfillment they find in each other.

Poly people understand the idea of NSSOs, or a "romantic" relationship that is non-sexual and how that does not make it somehow "less than" other romantic relationships.  We understand the concept of "family" and that all relationships are unique and individual and special for their individuality.  While we do not deny the importance of sex in a relationship for those relationships that include sex, we also do not define our relationships primarily by sex.  If a relationship *feels* like a "romantic" relationship, or "partner" just fits better than "friend", it doesn't matter if that relationship happens to not include intercourse - it's no less valid than a "traditional" relationship.  Some people are still part of the family, still a "spouse", whether sex is involved or a legal document is involved, or not.

This was a thoroughly depressing film, but a touching and well-done look at a polyamorous arrangement.

Comments 
4th-Aug-2008 05:11 am (UTC) - Other poly movies I would suggest
  • Paint Your Wagon
  • XX/XY - I call this the bad poly movie. The main male character does his best to mess up his life and the lives of those around him via a combination of self deception and deception of others.
4th-Aug-2008 05:12 am (UTC) - Re: Other poly movies I would suggest
:-) I have Paint Your Wagon in my queue
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