Daytime Emmy winning actress Lainey Allen (Crystal Chappell) is feeling the strain of maintaining her long running soap opera. Keeping up with her young co-stars cranks the frustration up a few degrees, and now she is finding it much more difficult to remember her lines. After 20 years as a daytime soap star, Lainey decides now is the time to call it a career and lets her TV contract end. With her publicist and partner, Eva Morales (Jessica Leccia), the couple moves to a beach house overlooking the ocean on the Central California coast. Their dreams of retiring to a bucolic life of leisure and loving are quickly shattered when Lainey is diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s. The future of Lainey and Eva’s relationship is changed in an instant as they struggle to deal with the diagnosis and the prospect of Lainey’s future of dependence on Eva, the woman who admired and cherished her as a television star, who became her lover and now, will have to become her care provider for the rest of her days on earth.
Directed by Albert Alarr and written by Marisa Calin, ‘A Million Happy Nows’ presents us with two women in love who must now face a tragically certain future. The struggle for memory is predominant throughout the film; the urgency to create new memories to last a lifetime, the sadness for the memories that will inevitably be lost. The film captures this theme well in a montage of images as Eva urgently assists Lainey in completing her bucket list; to do’s that run from quiet afternoons together in a hammock, to pitching a pup tent in the front yard and gettin’ it on. The balance of Lainey’s here and now contrasted with her nevermore is maintained with a smooth, sedulous confidence. She has her share of freak-outs for sure. Some are the diva moments we would expect from someone with 20 years on the soaps, while others are clearly borne of frustration and hesitation.
Friends still drop by and Lainey plugs away for the most part. At times, the film humorously and deliberately illustrates Lainey’s character with broad, deliberate strokes. As Lainey’s illness progresses through the film, we have to decide if Lainey is succumbing to the effects of her illness, or is this just Lainey being Lainey; as she snarkily interacts with the locals in her new town and shuts down men at the bar with splenetic glee. Director Alarr’s extensive career in television is evident in ‘Nows,’ with excellent photography and sound and a feature that concentrates on presentation while avoiding exaggeration. There are rarely more than 3 actors in a scene, giving ‘Nows’ an oft times soapy look and feel. This formula works well for this film as it evenly focuses on the two main themes presented; the love story of Eva and Lainey, and the tragedy of Alzheimer’s that millions of families face every day. ‘A Million Happy Nows’ intentionally reaches out to those suffering the tragedy of Alzheimer’s, both the individuals and the families.
The screen is shared equally by the two lovers as we all tensely observe Lainey’s departure from the reality she has cherished, while we ache for Eva as she struggles emotionally and physically to burn the images and memories of her lover and life partner into her own permanence; Eva clearly accepts that very soon, she must let her beloved go, but will fight to the end to keep her memories of Lainey alive. A Million Happy Nows maintains a steady, melodramatic, pace and understandably so. It is a formula that has worked very well for both Chappell and Leccia during their long, successful television run as the same sex couple Olivia and Natalia on CBS’s ‘Guiding Light.’ The chemistry between Chappell and Leccia that illuminated the small screen now ignites the big screen with captivating confidence. A Million Happy Nows allows us to weep for the loss of a loved one, and sorrow for the loss of a life still living.
‘A Million Happy Nows’ will open the Desperado LGBT Film Festival on Friday, January 27th at 7:30 pm. The Desperado LGBT Film and Arts Festival takes place January 27 through the 29th 2017 at the Paradise Valley Community College Center for Performing Arts 18401 North 32nd Street Phoenix, Arizona 85032. The Desperado Film Festival’s mission is to showcase quality films that are related to the experiences of the LGBT community.