Review by Victoria Large
Posted on 22 May 2010
Source 35mm print
Categories The 2010 Independent Film Festival Boston
Director Ken Wardrop’s His and Hers has an intriguing but restrictive central conceit: the documentary features excerpts of interviews with seventy women from the Irish Midlands, each of them talking about the men in their lives. It’s all gorgeously shot and edited. Though the film’s concerns are mainly domestic (taking place largely in kitchens, bedrooms, living rooms, and backyards) and its sights are largely commonplace, Wardrop finds a freshness in the everyday simply by taking the time to really look at it. There can indeed be beauty in neatly folded towels or a dog clicking across a tile floor.
The women’s stories, meanwhile, are sometimes funny and sometimes poignant. We hear about the complexities of sharing a television or hot water bottle with one’s spouse, and about the comforts of sharing certain routine pleasantries. (In one amusing case, it’s “How are you keeping?”) One vignette, in which Wardrop’s interviewee recalls her husband’s collapse on a dance floor, lingered on my mind for the rest of the day and afterwards, too. I was entertained and sometimes moved by listening to these women.
I do, however, find it worrisome that their lives are allowed to blend into one. The film begins with footage of a girl baby, and the interviewees increase in age with most every cut, culminating in a final shot of an elderly woman. Wardrop’s women are unnamed and their stories come at us devoid of context, and as such the women are indistinguishable from one another. The film’s focus on women speaking as daughters, sisters, mothers, and wives perhaps unintentionally presents a narrow and very traditional view of life for Irish women, and really any women. It would have been interesting to hear from a divorced woman, an unmarried woman, or a woman with platonic male friends. There is little variation here in the women’s social, cultural, or economic backgrounds, and little mention is made of what these ladies do outside of the home.
It can of course be argued that what His and Hers does is convey the universality of human experiences: musings about love, cohabitation, aging, and mortality concern those of every gender, race, and sexual orientation, after all. Be that as it may, I still contend that His and Hers might have been a stronger work if it reflected a broader spectrum of experience. Wardrop has a keen eye, and he should be up to the challenge. One hopes that this film, his first feature, is only a hint at what’s to come.
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