Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Ethel Kennedy had so many children that even they couldn't remember how many siblings they had. In this new documentary on the Kennedy Matriarch, Robert F. Kennedy Jnr. challenges one of his sisters claim that they number 11, and he proceeds to name just 10. The 11th and youngest is Rory and she is the filmmaker and the one actually sitting in front of him!

The fact that this insightful profile on one of the most powerful women in the Kennedy Clan was made by her daughter, a respected and successful filmmaker and by having her mother's involvement, it included a treasure trove of previously unseen photos and videos. Not that the family connection made it plain sailing as Ethel proves to be both modest and intensely private, but the very expressive face spoke volumes when the topic just got too personal for her comfort.

Ethel was there propping up her husband Robert Kennedy who almost fell apart when his brother President Kennedy was assassinated; she was his biggest supporter when he ran for the Senate always dragging the children along to every stop on the Campaign trail; and she was by his side as usual the day that an assassin took his life too. She found herself a widow at 40 years old and pregnant with her 11th child

After his death Ethel's strength which seemed propelled by her deep Catholic faith saw her somehow empowered as a single parent determined to aggressively take  on the roles of both father and mother to her brood whilst at the same time throwing herself into a carrying on her husbands commitment to social reform with such great zeal.  True she led a very privileged life with a host of staff to perform most daily functions, and she never had to ever worry about money, but what comes thorough  so strongly in the film is that even though she chose to be in her husband's shadows, she was a real tour de force in her own right.

An insightful look at a remarkable woman.  Unmissable.

P.S. Currently still playing the Film Festival Circuit is also available on HBO On Demand in the US.  (This review was originally posted as part of my SUNDANCE 2012 Blog)