LGBT Movies: A Woman Like Eve (1979)

A Dutch housewife leaves her volatile husband for a taciturn woman. Then begins a custody battle for her children. But her new partner wants her to give up the kids and move to a lesbian commune. A Woman Like Eve examines gender roles, social structures and the difficulty of self-actualization. The supporting characters are thin but the ideas are complex.

Let’s have a look in this spoiler filled recap.

Act One: Asleep

Scene One: Mother’s Day Party
MOTHER-IN-LAW: I’m so glad my children have formed traditional families. May they remain so for the rest of their days.    
(Eva runs screaming out of the house.)
HUSBAND: Honey? You’re scaring the kids.

Scene Two: French Seaside
EVA: My husband sent me on vacation. He thinks I need a “rest.” Can’t imagine why.
JULIE: Society drives people crazy. You should visit my lesbian commune. We grow our own food and share the workload.
EVA: Amazing.

Act Two: Awake

Scene Three: Home Sweet Home
EVA: So, I told the other housewives we should form a collective and share childcare.
HUSBAND: That’s nice. Where’s my dinner?
EVA: And I’m in love with Julie.
HUSBAND: That’s nice. It’s trendy to be bi-curious.
EVE: And we slept together.

Scene Four: Kid’s Birthday Party
PARTY GUESTS: Happy birthday!

Scene Five: Divorced
EVA: The court gave me custody of my children!
JULIE: Good luck. I like you but I’ve no interest in motherhood.
EVA: What? But they’re well-behaved movie kids.
JULIE: Still not interested. I’ll be more of a surly aunt.

Act Three: Choices

Scene Six: Court house
EX-HUSBAND: How could the judge have let my kids live with lesbians!
LAWYER: The judge prefers two moms to a single dad.
HUSBAND: Then I’ll remarry.
LAWYER: That should be enough to get them back.
EVA: But I’m introducing my kids to communal living and second wave feminism.
LAWYER: These newfangled ideas are confusing them. Their grades are going down.
JUDGE: I’m returning them to their father.

Scene Seven: Train Platform
JULIE: I’m going back to the commune. If you join me, you’re giving up suburbia for good.
EVA: I’m ready.
(Eva does not get on the train. The train leaves. She stands on the platform unsure of what to do.)


In the Garden

Women, after a setback, always try to pick up the pieces again. They have an eternal creativity. If war comes, they tuck their child under their arm and walk to the next refuge. They keep on going. Women have unbelievable strength and stubbornness and joy of life.

Nouchka van Brakel, Co-Writer and Director

A Woman Like Eve was re-released as part of the Nouchka van Brakel Trilogy. Each film focused on women’s liberation and sexual awakening. Eva’s quiet girlfriend and noisy ex-husband are simple characters. They know what they want and resent change. Eva’s still finding herself. She explores many identities throughout the story. This will continue after the credits roll.  

A Woman Like Eve feels ahead of its time. Eva and Julie’s relationship is treated respectfully by the courts and her social worker. Her former friends quietly drop her after the birthday party. But only her husband makes homophobic remarks. And it’s clear the film is not on his side. A 2015 Gallup poll declared the Netherlands one of the most LGBT friendly countries in the world. They weren’t quite there in 1979 but seeds of progress were being sown.

A Woman Like Eve is currently streaming on TUBI. You can find more of my reviews on The Avocado, Letterboxd and Serializd. My podcast, Rainbow Colored Glasses, can be found here.