In Nina Davenport’s (Always a Bridesmaid) newest documentary airing on HBO, viewers get an eyeful when they see what happens when a 40-something, independent woman decides to “put down the camera, and go get some sperm and get pregnant.”
Nina is at a crossroads. She’s 41 (and a half), and more than ready for a baby. The problem is Mr. Right is nowhere to be found, which makes the whole baby-making part a bit hard to accomplish. So what’s a woman to do? Nina does what any capable, intelligent woman would: she asks her gay friend Eric for his sperm, which, eventually, he does. But not without some convincing, though. Eric, who likes his life the way it is, has some doubts about giving Nina his sperm. Wouldn’t she want someone younger to donate? When the baby is “wailing in the night, every night” who ultimately will be there? But Nina puts his mind at ease, letting her friend know that this decision is hers alone and that she would be responsible for the baby’s care. And so the adventure of procreation begins.
First Comes Love is a funny, touching and sometimes annoying look at Ms. Davenport’s quest for Motherhood. She gives viewers an unflinching look at her life, which includes the opinions of friends and family, most notably her father William. While most have been supportive of Nina’s decision, it is her father and sister-in-law (and one her sons) who give it to her straight, whether she likes it or not. While visiting her brother Tim and his family, Nina’s asks everyone what they think about her having a baby without a husband. One of her nephews pipes in, and like all children, gives her the harsh truth. A baby whines and cries and barfs (true). “You might have a twin, or triplets like us. And how could you handle that without a husband?” he demands. Kids say the darndest things.
Nina’s father is even more harsh, telling his daughter her plan is “ridiculous.” To say he was unhappy about his daughter’s idea is putting it mildly. But Nina and her father have more to tackle than her impending motherhood. There are deep-seated resentments on Nina’s part that she wants to confront head on, especially now that her beloved mother, Gertrude, has passed on. Nina’s mother was her champion and extremely supportive of her daughter’s life and career choices. Her mother’s death left a serious hole in the family, which Nina deals with along with her pregnancy.
But it isn’t all bad, thank goodness. Nina has Amy, her best friend of 10 years, who I believe is a spectacular person. Amy is with Nina through everything: hormone shots, doctor visits, you name it. Amy is just plain awesome. The fact that she decided to become Nina’s birth partner while navigating the dating world makes her even more special, in my book. But Nina also has a boyfriend, a handsome critic named John who seems to be okay with his girlfriend’s decision to have a baby. I mean really, how lucky can this woman be? How does the relationship play out as time goes by? Well I can’t tell you everything, now can I?
I think First Comes Love is very well done for several reasons. First, Nina Davenport is a great filmmaker. This is the first of her documentaries that I have ever seen and I thought it was extremely engaging, funny, provocative and just plain good. There were also times when I thought Nina was a bit selfish and annoying, but that’s what makes the documentary so interesting. She isn’t perfect and that’s just fine.
Second, I was astonished at the revelation that so many New York women are deciding to have children on their own. During the film, Nina’s friend Monica talked about her decision to get pregnant outside of marriage. She talked about the desperate dating, both online and requests to be setup by friends. Monica said that once she decided to get pregnant, everything changed. I honestly could not imagine having a child at my age because I love my freedom and I have no patience for kids whatsoever. But so many women are saying “screw it” and having babies alone.
Third, the film brings up so many questions that I’m sure will be hotly debated in the months to come. Why are so many women getting pregnant alone as opposed to being married? What does this say about the state of dating and relationships in this day and age? I see many, many, many conversations about this film, both pro and con (especially con) in the near future from super feminists to religious conservatives. No matter, people will definitely be talking about this film and Nina Davenport.
First Comes Love is currently airing on HBO, HBO On Demand and HBO GO.