After four decades, can a romantic relationship still be alive, fulfilling, and dynamic? If so, what would that even look like? That’s the question Netflix takes on in its new docuseries My Love: Six Stories of True Love.
Inspired by the 2013 hit Korean documentary My Love, Don’t Cross That River by director Jin Mo-young, the tearjerker of a series, premiering April 13, follows six elderly couples from all over the globe for a year to showcase what their partnership looks like as they enter into their final chapter together.
For one husband and wife, it’s getting their affairs in order so they don’t burden their children. A same-sex couple hopes to escape their cramped home and retire out in the countryside, while others come to terms with health issues. But no matter what obstacles they face, all act out of compassion, patience, and fondness, oftentimes with a laugh.
It was no easy feat finding these examples of pure, everlasting love, the docuseries’ showrunner Xan Aranda tells The Daily Beast. It wasn’t enough for the partners to have been together for more than 40 years—their relationships needed to be vibrant and the love between them tangible after all that time.
“Nothing of this scale has ever been done before,” Aranda, who was nominated for an Emmy for her work on Transparent: This Is Me, says. “Netflix is a bold mofo for taking it on and so is [production company] Boardwalk.”
“It’s one thing for a relationship to be decades old, but is it alive now?” Aranda says of the criteria. “Does it have glory in its telling, but how is it lived in the present? To do a year in the life you have to look at a lot of really particular factors beyond their personalities.”
It was a tall order, but they eventually found six thriving relationships in Ginger and David, from Vermont; Nati and Augusto, from Spain; Kinuko and Haruhei, from Japan; Saengja and Yeongsam, from South Korea; Nicinha and Jurema, from Brazil; and Satyabhama and Satva, from India.
“None of them would have sought this out,” Aranda maintains. “If we put out a casting call for this long list of desires, none of these people who we found, who I think were perfect for the series, none of them would have responded. Every single one was like, ‘Who, us? Why?’”
Beyond the careful consideration of the couples, the choosing of each episode’s director to tell these stories was just as intentional. “It was also so incredibly important to Netflix, the Korean team, myself and Boardwalk that we hire directors in their own country to tell a story from their own country,” Aranda explains. “We were really mindful of the responsibility that we had in telling one story from one country, especially for massive countries.”
The result is a powerful look into these couple’s lives, and viewers can’t help but fall in love with their stories. Each relationship operates uniquely—their love manifesting in different ways, depending on personalities and cultural differences. The audience is brought into their homes, shares in their celebrations, and feels their heartbreaks right along with them.
A particularly moving moment comes from pragmatic Ginger as she explains why she’ll have her ashes spread where her parents are buried, while David chose for his to be spread back at their family farm. “When the north wind blows, David’s ashes will come up where he can visit me,” she says. “When the wind blows the opposite way, then I’ll come down and see him.”
In another heart-wrenching moment, Augusto is unable to get his license renewed due to his failing eyesight and reflexes, but by the next scene it’s nearly forgotten as he flirts with and jibes Nati after securing a ride back to their rural village.
“Every month, I would receive footage from six countries and inevitably something would make me sob, whether or not it made it,” Aranda says. “But any moment of tenderness we live for. Two people who've been together for so long and still offer each other tenderness is massive.
For Aranda, an especially poignant scene is when Yeongsam realizes just how serious of a condition Saengja’s physical state is in after decades of hard labor. “He is such a confident dude, has such a hearty voice, booming voice,” she says. “There’s that moment of crushing tenderness when he learns scientifically how much his wife has been bearing down and working and that she cannot hear. I think that really shook him.”
Another important element was illustrating how intricate these relationships could be. Satyabhama and Satva are in an arranged marriage but are as in love as any of the other twosomes. Same-sex couple Nicinha and Jurema explain how their large, loving family was born out of small arguments, with Nicinha going out to blow off some steam only to later realize she was pregnant.
“We left arguments in all of the films, squabbles, friction, whatever,” offers Aranda. “I like that part of the history of how Nicinha and Jurema’s love endured over time, they kept coming back to each other, even after they would have their outbursts. Now they’re just together. I think it’s encouraging to anyone looking for or struggling with love to know that you don’t have to fall into a perfect relationship for it to last for so long. You just have to keep trying, and keep listening, and keep loving each other.”
At the end of each couple’s story, there’s no update provided about how they are doing. In a way, there’s no need since the story of their love has already been told. No matter what happens, it will remain constant.
“We wanted it to be a snapshot in time,” Aranda explains. “We wanted it to have a timeless quality to it in some ways. A lot of people say that it’s one thing to eat, it’s another thing to be sated. I was very okay with people having to Google stuff later. To be in the moment with them, I think it’s a really rare and delicious thing. We wanted you to be sated by what we thought was good nutrition because it’s really tasty, tasty love and a delicious cry.”
Filming wrapped at the start of 2020, just months before the world was gripped by a pandemic. For the team, Aranda says they wanted to make sure everyone was healthy, and thankfully all the couples managed to survive the year. But still, some of the couples believe that 2019 could be the last normal year they ever have, as many lost loved ones.
It makes the docuseries extra special to Aranda, who describes it as “an honor of a lifetime.”
“I think there was a lot of acrimony in the world, a lot of fear and a lot of pain,” she says. “I truly believed it would be good for the planet when it came out and I think it’s never been more true, that it’s good for the planet. On a very general, basic level, I think there’s nothing better in this world than to love and be loved.”