Who, among us, can say that we come from a “normal” family? The Guys Next Door, a feature length documentary, offers an alternative to the traditional ideas of what constitute the nuclear American family. Meet Erik and Sandro, a gay couple with two daughters birthed by their friend Rachel with donor eggs. In her 40s, Rachel is married to Tony and they have three biological children of their own.
Rachel and Tony, a seemingly traditional married couple, live in the suburbs of Massachusetts with their children. Inspired by a TV program about the difficulties and costs associated with gay couples having children, Rachel, age 41, volunteers to be a surrogate – not once, but twice within two years – for Erik, her good friend from college, and his husband Sandro, an Italian émigré.
This film begins when Rachel is eight months pregnant with Erik and Sandro’s second daughter, Eleonora. What compels a woman in her forties with three children of her own to carry children for friends? What is the reaction of her husband and children? And, how will Erik and Sandro handle the challenges of parenting two girls in a world that still emphasizes the importance of maternal instinct?
The issues raised in this film – gay marriage and parenting, surrogacy as a path for having children, and the extension and redefinition of what it means to be “an American family” – are particularly relevant in today’s socio/political climate where we are witnessing new threats to the civil liberties of LGBTQ community. The power of The Guys Next Door is the way it demonstrates our shared humanity. In the words of the esteemed documentary filmmaker Ross McElwee (Sherman’s March), “with nuance, verve and humor, this film goes well beyond issues of surrogacy and gay parenthood and explores the humanity that connects us all.”