CATEGORIES Documentary, Independent, New Releases, SXSW, Theatrical Reviews, Festival Reports, Movie News, Reviews, SXSW Film Festival, New Releases, Cinematical
You know who's great? Women. Seriously, they're one of my favorite genders. And you know who agrees with me? Ken Wardrop, whose adorably sweet documentary His & Hers presents life through the eyes of about 70 different Irish women. I should caution you that if you watch this movie, you will be struck with an overwhelming desire to go hug your wife, sister, girlfriend, mother, or daughter, whichever beloved female is closest and will tolerate being hugged by you.
Wardrop's concept is simplicity itself. Having rounded up all these Irish lasses, ranging in age from 4 to 90, he has each one talk to the camera and describe her relationships with the men in her life. The footage is arranged according to the age of the subject, starting with a toddler talking about her daddy, all the way up through a nonagenarian discussing her late husband. In between, teenagers talk about their boyfriends, young women describe their fiancés, middle-aged women tell us about their sons and husbands, and so forth.
While this may sound like an extremely chauvinistic concept -- you give these women a forum, but all they're allowed to talk about is MEN?? -- it's actually the exact opposite. What emerges is an appreciation for the clear and indisputable fact that women exercise incredible influence over the men around them. Starting in the womb, ending at death, and usually at several points in between, every man's life is impacted significantly by his mom, his sisters, his grandma, his girlfriends, his wife. The women in the film represent a cross-section of those important females.
Wardrop's participants, their Irish brogues ringing musically, gab about their men with great humor and humility. They love their husbands and sons, and it's clear from hearing about their interactions that their husbands and sons adore them, too. Here's an ancient widow telling us that her son -- who must be in his 60s himself -- still calls or visits regularly. Here's a nervous expectant mother talking about the son she hopes to raise. Here's a middle-aged mom who speaks proudly of the son who went to war. The Irish proverb that starts the film sums it up: "A man loves his sweetheart the most, his wife the best, but his mother the longest."
All of the women are filmed in their homes, surrounded by their personal effects; no one is on camera for longer than a couple minutes; nothing is staged or re-created. Surprisingly, this doesn't become visually stagnant. Wardrop and his cinematographers, Michael Lavelle and Kate McCullough -- who won a prize at Sundance for their work -- find artistically expressive ways to photograph the kitchens and living rooms, keeping things interesting without drawing attention to themselves. What could easily have been a dull-looking "talking heads" doc is instead pleasant to behold.
And of course the content is pleasant, too, albeit tinged occasionally with sadness and loss, as in life. I don't see how anyone could watch His & Hers and not come out uplifted, with a new-found respect for members of the fairer sex. So, don't see it if you hate women and want to continue to do so.