MIFF Review: 112 Weddings

Blogged by: Review by Filmme Fatales contributor Karys McEwen. 03 Aug 2014 View comments
It is common practice for budding filmmakers to subsidise their work with a little wedding videography on the side. The necessary evil funds the art they make far removed from flying bouquets and gushing guests. Director Doug Block does away with this divide by making his 20 years of experience as a wedding cameraman the subject of his latest documentary.




Many Hollywood films end with triumphant weddings. Block’s film does the opposite. It opens with old footage of couples walking down the aisle and then skips ahead to investigate the current state of their relationships. Rabbi Jonathan Blake, who officiates many of the recorded weddings, at one point quips that “marriage is not a perfect institution”. It turns out he’s pretty spot on. While not all of the 112 couples are interviewed, the documentary manages to present a cross-section of divorcees, dissatisfied spouses and those distracted by other priorities (mainly children). Though for every marriage malfunction, there is also a couple who happily finish each other’s sentences, or joke lovingly about the ridiculous concept of soulmates. We’re presented with a same-sex couple, a pair who wish they’d gone for something a little more low-key, and parents who chose a commitment ceremony over a traditional wedding. It’s a mixed bonbonniere.
 
Much like marriage itself, the atmosphere of the film often shifts dramatically. At times the couple’s exasperated facial expressions and conflicting accounts of important events are hilarious. At others the heartache is overwhelming, not least of all when a distraught wife describes the moment she realised her husband had been cheating on her for over a year, or when a young husband is forced to constantly reassures his crestfallen wife that she isn’t a bad mother. Throughout the ups and downs, 112 Weddings checks-in intermittently with a likeable young couple preparing for their upcoming nuptials. Their mutual infatuation contrasts the tone of the less idyllic, already hitched interviewees, presumably because they’re still in that sweet spot where they haven’t started talking over one another yet.



Block narrates the film, although his input during interviews is surprisingly light. His politeness can be a tad disappointing at times, especially when he lets several couples tiptoe around underlying problems. That said, his tactful probing keeps the exercise from falling into some kind of trashy reality genre. His skill means that even the most unsettling interview, in which an ex-husband recounts the disabling manic episodes that led to his marriage’s demise, is somehow rendered watchable.
 
112 Weddings is touching without being sappy, and never slips into being preachy. The film isn’t critical of modern marriage, nor does it suggest that weddings always (or ever) result in couples living happily ever after. It only reminds us that weddings are the easiest bit of a marriage; the real challenge comes in the years that follow. No one, not even those in love, can get through life without at least a couple of bumps in the road.
 

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