The story of Rachel Segall, Erik Mercer, and Erik’s husband Sandro Sechi, and their two daughters is one of trust and generosity, and two families intimately linked forever.
Rachel’s family felt complete to her before her college friend Erik asked for her help. He and Sandro wanted a family of their own. She was 40 and wed, the mother of three teenagers already, but she agreed almost immediately. And she did it for free, even though many families pay surrogates tens of thousands of dollars for their time and health. Using donor eggs, she brought their daughter into the world.
And then she volunteered to do it again.
That’s where The Guys Next Door, the documentary by Amy Geller, begins. Rachel was eight months pregnant with the Mercer-Sechi’s second daughter, and it follows both families for nearly three years.
Geller, in an interview with BU Today, says that they only intended to make it one year, a sort of year in the life thing, but by then, they realized that the two daughters had their own story to tell, and followed their growth too.
The documentary has family footage and interviews, some of it very personal, like the birth of their daughter. Both families were glad to work with Geller and her camera tech, Allie Humenuk.
The finished documentary, about two hours cut down from the nearly 50 they filmed in total, is an emotional, clean-cut narrative. Geller’s main worry about the film’s release was the audience’s potential reaction to its sheer lack of drama.
“Nothing horrible happens that turns this family inside out, which I think a lot of people have come to expect in documentaries these days,” says Geller. They have the small, internal conflicts that every family has, but the world never intrudes to add to them.
The reception of The Guys Next Door at early screenings in the Sarasota Film Festival and the Independent Film Festival Boston have been effusive and positive.