Rory Kennedy, the 11th child of Robert & Ethel Skakel Kennedy, documents the life and times of her mother in this HBO film.
Born after her father, Robert Kennedy, was assassinated, Rory Kennedy never knew the man who was a part of U.S. history of the 1960s. Her mother Ethel raised Rory and her ten siblings. Now, an acclaimed documentary filmmaker, Rory puts her talents to work to show the life and accomplishments of her mother in this HBO original film Ethel.
The title of this film is somewhat misleading, as Ms. Kennedy spends a majority of the film focused on her father. She does say that her mother was the stabilizing force behind her father and stood by him through thick and thin. Through interviews with her mother, her sisters Kathleen, Kerry, and Courtney, and brothers Joe and Bobby, they relate the times spent with Robert Kennedy, and some of her brothers who were too young to remember their father recount stories of growing up with their mother.
It's clear when the cameras are focused on Ethel Kennedy, that she is uncomfortable talking about herself, and even more uncomfortable discussing the assassination. But she lights up when she recounts stories of RFK and the pride and love she felt and still feels for this man is evident.
Rory takes viewers through the history of the Skakel and Kennedy families and compares and contrasts the childhoods of her mother and father. Then the subjects switch to RFK's career and role of father. She remarks to her mother that she, Ethel, was pregnant for 99 months of her life. Before she met Robert Kennedy, Ethel Skakel dabbled with the idea of being a nun. Religion was very important to her and RFK, and they raised their children with a strong Catholic foundation.
Between the discussions with her mother and siblings, viewers are treated to clips from some rare Kennedy home movies. And, in the end, the crux of this film is that Ethel was the parent who had the responsibility of rearing her 11 children. Of course, they had housekeepers, cooks, and nannies. But after 1968 she was the sole parent to this large household.
The film includes stories about Ethel bringing her growing brood to Senate committee meetings, Ethel and Bobby taking them to areas where underprivileged children were being raised, and expanding their worlds to include a wide variety of experiences. The majority of the discussions with her siblings, though, relate to their recollections of their father.
Ethel is a 95-minute documentary that looks at the life and times of Ethel and Robert Kennedy. It is important, in many respects, because if RFK had not been assassinated, there is a very good chance he would have been elected President, making Ethel the first lady of the United States. But due to the events of 1968, Ethel Kennedy has remained a shadow in history.
I asked Mrs. Kennedy if there were specific causes on which she would have focused had things gone differently and she became the First Lady. "I don't go into that area at all, but I imagine at this moment it would pretty much be the same thing that our family does now: the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights. And we get very involved in human rights in ‑‑ all of the world ‑‑ in, actually, 27 countries ‑‑ intensely, including our own farm workers in Upstate New York, who are treated like slaves." This woman still has the passion for the workers and carries on the legacy of her husband, even in her waning years."
I believe it is Rory's intention with this film to finally bring her mother out of the shadows and tell the story of the strength of Ethel Kennedy. Ethel premiers October 18, 2012 on HBO.