Every now and then a movie will leave you exhausted as the ending credits roll. Not because it frustrated you, nor because it is bad. Rather, because it takes you on such an emotional roller coaster that you are mentally spent by the end of it. Love Always, Mom will leave you in such a state.
Ever since she was a child, Trish has wanted to be a mom. After marrying Greg, she saw this whole future laid out before them which includes children. Then in 2012, she is diagnosed with breast cancer. It is very aggressive, but she survives. After being clear for a year, a metastasis (when cancerous cells move to a new location in the body) tumor is found in her brain; this is also known as stage 4. She now takes medication daily and will do so for the rest of her life. Trish and Greg are unable to conceive, as she can’t go off her treatment for nine months. Nor can the couple adopt, as the intended parents need to have a certain life expectancy to qualify. Trish and Greg discuss it and decide that she’ll stop taking the medicine for a few months. This way some eggs of hers can be harvested. They will then do in vitro fertilization (IVF) and can start the family they both want. The most prominent complication here is that due to the various tumors and treatments, her eggs have aged faster than they should have naturally, so it is now or never.
Trish needs to have a clean brain scan before the official green light is given for the IVF treatments to begin. There is terrible news, however, as something is found right along the outside of where the original brain tumor was. A positron emission tomography scan, which utilizes color dyes with trace amounts of radiation, allows doctors to detect how well a patient’s organs and tissues are doing. Trish goes through with this to discover if cancer has spread throughout her body. The good news is everything came back fine.
“…the duo decides on surrogacy as their best option to having a child.”
To take care of the recurrence still in her brain, Trish has an outpatient procedure involving gamma rays. It takes a worse toll on her than expected but she bounces back and embraces life again. In 2015, the duo decides on surrogacy as their best option to having a child. Love Always, Mom then follows Trish and Greg as they search for the right egg donor and gestational surrogate (not one in the same) to bring their dreams to literal life.
They meet with several candidates on both fronts before agreeing that the relatable and motivated Kali will be their egg donor, and spirited mom Meghan shall be their surrogate. Each person clicks very well with each other, and all come to similar conclusions about how involved they should be in the child’s life. Of course, there are ups, downs, good news, heartbreaking news, and everything else possible in between.
The reason that the documentary is as affecting as it is due to Trish. While not afraid to cry and admit her fears to the camera, she is charismatic and strong, with a clear love for life that not even two cancerous tumors can tame. The audience is on her side before the title even appears on screen, and want to see her succeed in her lifelong dream of being a mother. That she and Greg are so head over heels in love with each other just boosts the audience’s desire to see them happy and get what they want.
“…an emotional roller coaster that leaves you mentally spent by the end…”
For his part, Greg is a fantastic husband. Supportive and patient, doing everything he can to help his wife in whatever way possible. They do have diverging views about specific issues concerning the child, such as how to handle it if he/ she has Down Syndrome. Even then, their love for each other isn’t questioned. Kali runs a life coaching company for teenage girls and early 20-something women, and her fiance, Andrew, believes he, Kali, Greg, and Trish will be great friends, even if the circumstances of their meeting were different. All these individuals are well-meaning, smart, and earn the audience’s respect, empathy, and sympathy.
Written and directed by Tricia Russo (the Trish the film is about) and Craig E. Shapiro, they take their time, so the audience invests in not just the main couple and their plight, but also their respective families and friends who are helping as much as they can. As writers, they never talk down to the audience. There is a lot of medical jargon used throughout the film, and the filmmakers handle defining the more uncommon diagnoses well. The use of music is also quite excellent and keeps the momentum going.
Love Always, Mom is skillfully made, never flinching away from uncomfortable moments, but also celebrating life and all it has to offer. Greg and Trish deserve to be happy and their journey to start a family is full of highs and lows. That they’re surrounded by loving, caring, supportive people (in 2017 Trish was a bridesmaid in Kali and Andrew’s wedding) makes this true story all the more impactful. The documentary is a love letter to this unborn child so that they will come to know their mother when the inevitable happens; expect to cry, in a good way.
Love Always, Mom (2018) Written and directed by Tricia Russo and Craig E. Shapiro. Starring Tricia Russo, Greg Russo, Kali Rogers, Meghan Brenner, Andrew Solomon, Matt Brenner, Tom Gonnella, Arlene Gonnella, and Natalie Cekleniak MD.