Our introduction to the women of Women Do Cry is a fight between sisters Sonja (Maria Bakalova) and Lora (Ralitsa Stoyanova). They shout as they throw each other’s clothes on the floor, making an unnecessary mess they’ll inevitably both have to pick up, just for the sake of it. A few minutes later, we see a much different scene, as Sonja and Lora lay together and giggle about how they feel about the men they’ve been seeing, their differing opinions on sex. It’s the type of emotional whiplash unique to sisterhood.
Women Do Cry follows the immediate aftermath of Sonja’s HIV diagnosis and the banding together of three generations of women from Sonja’s family. The film touches beautifully on the ways that familial tension (especially among women) can often come from a place of longing for loved ones to live their best lives, to let themselves be tended to instead of constantly giving, performing, and sacrificing for others. Their male partners often fail to see the work that each of these women put into sustaining “normal” life, especially in a time of crisis. New mother Veronica (Bilyana Kazakova) is dismissed by her husband, despite having given up everything unique to her — her career, her social life, even time with her family — for their baby. Family dinners grow tense if the women dissent with the men. Their fellow women, however, are acutely aware of how much work goes into loving relationships, into motherhood, into fighting for what you believe, even into what we often dismissively consider “basic” care.
When discussing the recently deceased matriarch of the family, who appears to have died quickly because she feared being a burden, one of the women tearfully murmurs, “But I really wanted to take care of her.” The film illustrates beautifully that joy can be found in this reciprocal care, especially when it is being provided to someone you love deeply and who understands and appreciates the love you are provided. Women Do Cry creates wonderful moments that touch on the complex relationship of both traditional and nontraditional women’s roles within a family, illuminating both the effort and the joy of being able to love, tend to, worry about, and often even fight with, those who love, tend to, and worry about you in return.
There’s a lot going on in Women Do Cry — from motherhood to gender and sexuality to loss to familial abuse. I appreciate that the film is trying its best to give each woman’s story a nearly equal weight, to tie them together and to emphasize the way that despite their different lives, they often still have vastly similar experiences. That said, this attempt sometimes leads to a lack of cohesion, a lack of centralization in the story that should probably mainly be centered upon Sonja’s plight, but sometimes opts instead to cast too wide of a net.
Women Do Cry paints a loving, albeit slightly disjointed, of the complicated but beautiful, vulnerable, and often freeing relationships that stem from the familial love of women, especially in times of crisis.