Imagine living in the spotlight with your well known husband, only to have him tragically die, while you are left pregnant, and raising ten other children. Where would you go from there? Well, this is exactly what we will find out tonight in the HBO documentary, “Ethel.” The tasteful and creative look into this private woman is based on the life of Ethel Kennedy, the widow of former US Attorney General, US Senator, and Presidential Candidate Robert F. Kennedy, and explores her before and during the campaign that took her husband’s life, the tragic times that followed, and what gave her the strength to pull through it all.
When you hear a discussion about Kennedy Women, it usually involves one or more of the most notable in the clan, due to their life in the public eye: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, matriarch Rose Kennedy, or maybe even Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy - wife of John F. Kennedy, Jr. – who died along with her husband and sister in 1999. But Ethel chose to stay out of the public eye as much as possible and concentrate on her children.
One would think that it would be incredibly stressful and difficult to be in such a hectic political time period as it is. But in that era, between the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, and the Vietnam War, one can only imagine how a family would pull through all of the debates and campaigning. Robert Kennedy’s death was a tragedy, but how could such an event affect someone who was front and center, maintaining a key role in that important man’s life? Then suddenly to be left alone and pregnant?
It’s significant that this is the first time that Ethel Kennedy has agreed to extended interviews. Not only that, but the film is fueled largely by the huge Kennedy family, with a number of personal interviews and testimonies. This allows for a great deal of new, unexplored material: unseen family footage, photos, and untold family stories.
While the political insight of the era is sure to be interesting, the personal life of the Kennedy’s, and of Ethel, seems to be the highlight of the film. It would be extremely fascinating to hear the story of any person who has had to go through such turmoil, let alone a person in Kennedy’s position at the time. The documentary looks absolutely fantastic and very eloquent in its tell-all approach. Everybody seems to have his or her own story, and, as Ethel says in the trailer for the film,
“Nobody gets a free ride. Everybody faces friends who have died, or family.”
It is sure to be a heartwarming and incredible story of strength and perseverance from a remarkable woman, Ethel Kennedy.
“Ethel” debuts tonight — Thursday, October 18 at 9:00 PM ET/PT on HBO.