about THE FILM
At 90-years-old, Merle Hayden has a lot to do. As the last crusading member of the utopian movement Lawsonomy, he works tirelessly to spread the gospel and preserve the legacy of his Commander, Alfred Lawson. Lawson invented the United States’ first passenger airliner, but his company went bankrupt during the Great Depression. Dismayed by the policies at work, Lawson created the Direct Credits Society, an economic-reform movement against what Lawson called “the one percent,” which advocated for “justice for everybody that harms nobody.” Thousands joined. Yet once the Depression ended, many members left Lawson and returned to gainful employment, but not Merle. Merle stuck with Lawson through the creation of the University of Lawsonomy and its closure at the hands of the IRS. Nearly 60 years after Lawson’s death, Merle continues distributing Lawson’s writings hoping to find new followers.
Merle’s high school sweetheart, Betty Kasch, feels differently. As a teenager, Betty rejected Lawsonomy, and so Merle rejected her—left her to join the organization fulltime. She checked for letters every day but did not hear from him for over 60 years. Although Betty and Merle picked up where they left off romantically, Merle's commitment to Lawsonomy continues overshadowing the life she would like them to share. She believes it is getting to be too much for him; in truth, it is too much for her.
Originally a story of a leader and his most devoted follower, Manlife blends Merle and Betty’s story with a vast collection of Lawsonian artifacts to tell their tale alongside Lawson’s. Together, they examine the history of a fringe utopian movement, the memory of which Merle believes will cease to exist when he does lest he find another student to carry on the crusade.