What makes or breaks a relationship today? From the privacy of their own bedrooms, ten couples offer frank, funny and often surprising insights into love, sex and marriage in AMERICANS IN BED. Featuring a rich cross-section of ages, ethnicities, religions and sexual orientations, the revealing and thoughtful special debuts on HBO, and wraps up this year’s summer documentary film series.
The U.S. has one of the highest marriage rates in the developed world, as well as the third-highest rate of divorce, with as many as half of unions failing. Brimming with genuine emotion and honesty, AMERICANS IN BED spotlights some of the many reasons people come together — and grow apart.
Director Philippa Robinson conducts wide-ranging interviews with subjects who are filmed in the comfort of their own beds, asking probing questions about what people look for in a partner and how they know when they have found it. From a couple that has been together for 71 years to a pair of fresh-faced newlyweds, she encourages her subjects to open their hearts and minds as they share candid and touching insights into their relationships, underscoring the fact that no union is as simple as it seems on the surface.
Each couple gradually discloses intimate thoughts about the sometimes painfully private issues that affect every relationship, including passion, fidelity, family obligations, separation, conflict, negotiation and illness. As they talk about how they met and fell in love, some even surprise each other with feelings long held back, while others revisit old hurts as if they had happened yesterday.
Joe and Patty, in their 40s with three growing children, say that while physical attraction was a big part of what drew them together, sex is no longer the most important aspect of their relationship. By turns wistful and bawdy, they look forward to the day they have room in their lives for the spontaneity of the past.
After 71 years of marriage, Helen and Red are still together, though now in assisted living. They went on their first date when she was 16, but Red wasn’t interested in an innocent teenager. Once his gallivanting days were over, he returned to his young sweetheart to settle down. The attraction between them is still apparent today. “He still makes me feel young,” says Helen, adding that in seven decades, she’s never turned him away in bed.
George and Farid took their relationship slowly, not allowing it to become physical until Farid felt sure of his younger boyfriend’s commitment. Now, they have found unexpected happiness in marriage and parenthood, something neither dreamed they would ever be able to experience.
At first glance, Leon and Blanca seem mismatched. He stands 6’6’’, while she is 4’10”, but a passionate connection keeps them together through a roller-coaster relationship that has broken up 26 times in two years. Leon’s commitment to a polyamorous lifestyle is a constant test for the monogamous Blanca. As he says, “When things are good, they are very, very good. When they are bad, they are horrid.”
When Linda and Margie first met online, Linda was separated from her husband and Margie was still married, but their deep connection was undeniable to both. When Margie had to choose between her two lives, Linda gave her the space she needed, saying, “I want you to be happy, whether that’s with me or without me.”
Yasmin and Mohamed, a young Egyptian-American couple, have been married nine months. Both are all smiles as they discuss each other and their new relationship. After a courtship shaped by age-old custom and family strictures, they find a sweet thrill in the simple pleasures of married life. “This is my person now,” says Mohamed. “I always wanted a person.”
Fatima and Kevin came close to splitting when she discovered explicit texts on his phone, rupturing the trust they had so carefully built. Kevin says he wants to “do right” by his partner and their relationship as they work to restore what they once had, and Fatima is still “bursting” with love for Kevin.
After meeting Randy, a photographer, on the set of a music video, Julie, a musician, gave up touring to be at his side. Then his career began sending him away from their Manhattan home for long stretches, leaving her alone. Now, the sizzling physical bond between them is starting to suffer and they poignantly debate how to argue more productively, so that they can concentrate on having fun together.
AMERICANS IN BED was produced and directed by veteran documentary filmmaker Philippa Robinson, who is also a trained counselor and is currently completing her masters in psychotherapy. Her acclaimed documentary “The British in Bed” aired on the BBC as part of the long-running series “Wonderland.”
For more information on the documentary, visit: Facebook: facebook.com/hbodocs; and Twitter: @HBODocs #AmericansInBed.
AMERICANS IN BED is a co-production with the BBC; produced and directed by Philippa Robinson; executive producers, Sheila Nevins for HBO and Jane Tranter for the BBC; senior producer, Lisa Heller; senior editor, Stuart Briggs; editor, Marc Davies; directors of photography, John Halliday and Wolfgang Held.