May December: Are Gracie and Joe Still Married in Real Life?

Netflix’s ‘May December’ follows Elizabeth Berry, an actress, as she shadows Gracie Atherton-Yoo, on whom the character in her next movie is based. Elizabeth wants to understand Gracie and her actions that, over two decades ago, led to her going to prison. In her mid-30s, she had an affair with Joe, her seventh-grade student, and had three children with him, the youngest ready to leave the nest now. Elizabeth’s arrival stirs something in the family, and by the end, things take a turn for Gracie and Joe.

Do Gracie and Joe Break Up?

One of the things that Elizabeth finds peculiar about Gracie is that she doesn’t have any qualms about her and Joe’s affair all those years ago. She still thinks their relationship is perfect and always had been, and there was never anything wrong with it. For a long time, Joe also seemed to feel that way, but even before Elizabeth’s arrival, the crack in his belief in their relationship started to appear. The actress’s investigation of their marriage gives Joe a chance to look back at that time and see it in a new light. With his own children becoming adults and ready to step out into the world, he starts to wonder whether it was a mistake for him to get involved with Gracie all those years ago.

Joe voices his concern to Gracie, saying that he might not have been in the right frame of mind back then, that he might not have been mature enough to understand the balance of their relationship, and that he didn’t have the perspective he needed. This enrages Gracie, who reminds him that he was the one “in charge” back then, and everything that happened was because he wanted it. This argument probably worked on Joe back then, but now, nearing his 40s, he sees how unhealthy and manipulative it was of Gracie to suggest that she (an adult) was doing what he (a minor) wanted, that he was the one with the upper hand in their relationship.

On the day of the graduation, Joe doesn’t sit with Gracie during the ceremony. He watches his children from afar and cries, which confirms that he has decided to end things with Gracie. Perhaps he’d been feeling this way for a while but only came around to doing it once his children were adults and unaffected by the divorce. With the twins set to leave for college, he takes a step towards turning a new leaf for himself.

Did Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau Get Divorced?

In the movie, a crying Joe is enough to show the audience what the future holds for him and Gracie. This echoes the events in real life, where Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau split up after going steady for more than eleven years. They’d married in 2005 after Letourneau was released from prison, having served seven years. They had two kids, both of whom were born when Fualaau was still a minor. He was 21 when they got married.

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In 2017, Fualaau filed for separation from Letourneau just a couple of weeks before their twelfth marriage anniversary. According to the filing documents, they had not made any pre-nuptial agreements. Reportedly, he filed “reserved” under the section where he was asked to issue a restraining order along with other things. Both of their children were adults by then.

Reportedly, the couple had been experiencing marital problems for a while before the separation order was filed, though there was no “third-party involvement” that led to this. Even after the filing, the couple lived together amicably and were often spotted together around town. However, according to the people close to them, one of them was “unhappy in the relationship,” and things couldn’t work that way. Letourneau and Fualaau’s divorce was finalized in 2019 when she was 57 and he was 35.

Though Fualaau asserted that Letourneau had never been abusive to him, a person close to him revealed to PEOPLE that he had been “going over things in his mind” since the split. “Just thinking about how they met and how that affected how they interacted as adults. He was never really a full-fledged partner; he was always secondary. He sees that now. It shouldn’t surprise anyone. But he’s feeling that, for the first time, he’s being like a real grown adult. That feels good for him,” the source said.

Fualaau also expressed his doubts about the relationship in a 2018 A&E documentary. He said: “A lot of things that should have gone through my mind at the time weren’t going through my mind.” In another interview on ‘The Dr. Oz Show,’ he said that he himself would never support an affair between a minor and an adult. “I’d probably go and seek some help. I couldn’t look at a 13-year-old and be attracted to that because it’s just not in my brain. It’s nothing that I’m attracted to. I mean, we all have our preferences, and that’s just not something that I would go towards,” he said.

Whatever doubts Fualaau might have had, he said that “at the end of the day, it was a real love story.” Letourneau, too, never had any second thoughts about their relationship, calling Fualaau “the man of my life.” When she died in 2020 at the age of 58, she left her estate to Letourneau and their daughters, even though they’d been divorced by then. As she battled cancer, Fualaau stayed by her side till the end.

Read More: Where is Vili Fualaau Now?