Editor’s Notes: Some Kind of Love opens at the Carlton in Toronto on June 12th.
Some Kind of Love is Canadian-born filmmaker Thomas Burstyn’s quiet exploration of the idea of family. With fragmented memories of his childhood, being long estranged from his brother, and having had a strained relationship with his parents when they died, Burstyn decides to reconnect with his aunt who always stood out in his mind—Yolanda Sonnabend, an acclaimed artist residing in England.
Some Kind of Love is Canadian-born filmmaker Thomas Burstyn’s quiet exploration of the idea of family.
When Burstyn and his wife Summer arrive at Yolanda’s house, they are surprised to find she has a new roommate with whom she does not get along: her brother, Dr. Joseph Sonnabend. The film subsequently examines the dichotomy between brother and sister and, in turn, forces Burstyn to consider the ties between himself and his own brother, while also lamenting on the role of the camera, and how it affects truth in the subjects it films.
Joseph and Yolanda co-own the posh house in a multimillion dollar neighbourhood that Yolanda has lived in the better part of her life while Joseph resided in New York. He is thoroughly disgusted by its ruinous state, perplexed by the mold, the water-stained ceilings, the overgrown backyard, the dusty glasses and grimy kitchen, and the paints, books, papers, and countless knickknacks covering every surface in the house. A renowned scientist and early AIDS researcher, Joseph understands order and organization. He is as seemingly resentful of his sister as he is of the camera Burstyn turns on him. Yolanda, by contrast, makes no mention of the decaying house or of the complete chaos that surrounds her living and work space, and is an unapologetic artist and creative personality. Her talent is incredible, her paintings, supreme. She takes no issue with her nephew’s camera and speaks freely and easily.
Burstyn follows his subjects with intent and care, framing them sometimes simply, sometimes creatively.
Burstyn follows his subjects with intent and care, framing them sometimes simply, sometimes creatively. It is emotional to witness the strained brother-sister dynamic, to hear Joseph and Yolanda speak about each other, and to listen as Burstyn begins making realizations about his own brother and parents. It can be difficult to discern whether Burstyn’s voiceovers on the subject of truth in film are genuine, or if they are added in with blatant purpose, to complement the overlying subject in his documentary of truth and genuineness in family. He is, after all, a filmmaker, and would know better than most how films have the ability to create their subjects’ truths almost more than the subjects create themselves; to film something is to instantly put a veil over the subjects being filmed, as they are no longer themselves, free and uninhibited, but are instead crafted and contrived by the filmmaker.
The changes in tone and feel are palpable when Burstyn returns to England to visit his aunt and uncle two years later. A particularly touching moment of simplistic childlike beauty and wonder finds Yolanda lying in her small bed, pale skin illuminated by pale sunshine streaming through the window, watching the trees and commenting quietly to Burstyn, “I like that. They never change.” Arguably, indeed, neither do the complexities inherent in families, captured beautifully by Burstyn in his documentary. Some Kind of Love blooms over its 78 minutes into a tender, touching portrayal of love between family and friends, as it examines what it means to be genetically tied to someone, and when it’s time to forgive past differences and find beauty in the person who has known you your entire life. The film leaves the viewer wishing there was time to showcase what went on between Joseph and Yolanda in the two years in between filming, but, as Burstyn points out, “None of us can be reduced to a single frame.”
Some Kind of Love blooms over its 78 minutes into a tender, touching portrayal of love between family and friends, as it examines what it means to be genetically tied to someone, and when it’s time to forgive past differences and find beauty in the person who has known you your entire life.