The Closer We Get
There is a danger when trying to create a documentary that is as secretive and personal as Karen Guthrie’s The Closer We Get. Attempts often slip into the category of overtly artistic, or advantageously pity-seeking. “Look at me,” some Directors seem to say, “aren’t I special!”. Mark Cousins’ The First Movie springs to mind as one of these wonderfully intimate films that fail to clear the hurdle of objectivity and instead has been infected with a certain sense of self-indulgence – a film that sits in the dead space between artistic and journalistic.
At first glance The Closer We Get seems to veer off along a somewhat self-absorbed path. “I never expected my mother to need mothering,” says Guthrie about the film’s focal character (who has been left incapacitated by a stroke), creating the suspicion of a self-pitying undercurrent. Happily it doesn’t materialise.
Set against the backdrop of a difficult father and a recovering mother, Guthrie’s documentary is an incredibly captivating account of her parents’ 50-year relationship. Ian Guthrie’s complexities hold the audience’s focus as they embark along on the director’s attempt to understand his incomprehensible actions, while maintaining her commitments to her ailing mother, Ann.
The style is impeccably welcoming. Nina Pope’s photography is less fly-on-the-wall and more friend-on-the-sofa, watching the daily happenings of a family that are so reluctant to admit their troubles. Pope, who has worked with Guthrie for some 20 years, has a fantastic ability to embed the audience into a scene. The warmth of the stove can almost be felt on the face, the smell of whatever’s cooking on it practically drifts out of the screen but, unlike a fly-on-the-wall, it never feels intrusive.
Perhaps it is the tale of a despondent father told by the daughter who can’t quite bring herself to forgive him, or, perhaps, an attempt at catharsis by the daughter who has too much on her chest. Possibly this film is neither. It is a set of beautifully curated shots in a family home whose occupants bravely soldier on through their topsy-turvy lives; a series of touching moments dispersed across such a dark theme, summarised perfectly by a softly spoken joke told by the incapacitated mother, responded to by the gravelly laugh of the evidently troubled father.
The Closer We Get is released in selected cinemas on 6th November 2015.
Watch the trailer for The Closer We Get here: