Directed by Andrea Niada Starring Peter Kerr & Douglas Adams Documentary Film Review by Chris Olson
With heartbreaking insight, How We Are Now is a well-crafted piece of documentary filmmaking that maintains a perfect harmony between thorough exploration and respectable distance. The result is an engaging and thoughtful journey through the lives of two men as they approach the “winter” months of their lives, and how they truly feel about leaving this world. The two central characters in How We Are Now (Peter Kerr and Douglas Adams) have a sassy and humorous attitude towards life's inevitable decline. Their chuckles and intimacies are completely disarming and audiences will most likely thoroughly enjoy their company during the movie. Jovial conversations about topics such as sex, death, and the state of affairs in the world are delivered without any grumpy old man syndrome or unnecessary gloominess. Their wicked sense of humour and good natured joshing with each other and those around them is completely endearing. This heightens the sense of sadness surrounding the issues that plague these two people, a couple in their 80s. Not just the myriad of health problems that arise (along with the inevitable pills that ensue) but also a sense that their place in the world is one of an imminent queue to leave without being much use to it before they depart. During one scene, Douglas mentions how he doesn't believe in the afterlife and will applaud when he dies. He also states the small comfort he does find is in the safety of his home rather than the troubled world outside. A telling and unsettling truth to reveal; the idea that the elderly members of society feel this way about the world as they near their journey's end. Director Andrea Naida makes his film powerful without resorting to schmaltz. There is no Comic Relief style score tugging at the heartstrings every few seconds, or extreme close-ups during emotional moments to highlight the pathos for audiences. Instead, the documentary consists of minimal camera work, and lots of mid-range shots keeping a degree of distance from the two men. Some scenes are left to linger a moment or two extra, picking out the human reflection that we should all be doing. In some films this could prevent a connection being made, however, Peter and Douglas are so enigmatic you cannot help but love them straight away. This allows the withdrawn filmmaking to make sharp comments about the way in which society views people like them. Their problems are enduring ones everyone in our community experiences, and yet we keep them at bay as best we can. Elderly people, in turn, feel reluctant to reach out towards the rest of us for fear of entering a scary and largely uncaring populus. There really are two ways of coming away from watching How We Are Now. You are either absolutely besotted with these brilliant characters, sympathising greatly with their fading bodies but loving their carefree attitude towards their approaching finality. Or you are passionately frustrated by the supposed “normality” of this situation, moved to question everything about the way in which society conducts itself, and determined to do your bit to bridge the gap in any way you can. In fact, most will probably come away with both attitudes. This is fierce filmmaking with a potent message and two of the best on screen characters you could wish for.
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