Ethel is presented as a “private insight into an extremely public life”. *Photo supplied
Ethel is presented as a “private insight into an extremely public life”. *Photo supplied

Director: Rory Kennedy
Run time: 97 mins
Showing: March 14, 6pm.

Ethel is presented as a “private insight into an extremely public life”. Being a member of the Kennedy family enables Rory to knit every scene with cute private family photos, charming home movie clips and interviews with her siblings. However, the film only briefly touches on the exceedingly well-known tragedies of the Kennedy family without any real introspection — lacking material to reflect on the family’s travails. The ‘insight’ is guarded and delivered lightly without unraveling its layers. Ethel is more of a loving tribute to an extraordinary mother. Rory Kennedy has produced other documentaries that tackled the issues at hand in deeper engaging critical and diverse ways. Having real insight into the situation and being so close to the subject at hand is her unique position and her handicap in this entertaining film.

“Nobody gets a free ride,” Ethel says. “So have your wits about you, and do what you can and dig in, because it might not last.” Rory Kennedy never knew her father, she was born six months after his death and raised by her mother along with ten other siblings. Although the 83-year-old Kennedy matriarch has spent most of her life as a widow, the film covers largely the years spent with her husband Robert, as an engaged political spouse, mother and social activist. She is the remarkable woman who carried on RFK’s lifework and who imbued his values in their eleven children.

Kennedy buffs will enjoy Ethel and its light, entertaining insight into the political dynasty. It’s a great story filled with pivotal 1950s and 60s-era American history and its most iconic political figures.