The Closer We Get
Directed by Karen Guthrie
Starring Karen Guthrie, Ian Guthrie & Ann Guthrie
Documentary film review by Chris Olson
The Closer We Get is a documentary that first appears as a glance at the frailty of the human body, depicting the small town life of a Scottish family that circles around stroke-sufferer Ann. But the film actually propels the viewer into a deeper exploration of the frailty of human emotion, one that is utterly engrossing, heart-breaking and emotionally challenging. Karen Guthrie's filmmaking is close to mastery.
Daughter to Ann, Karen narrates the documentary and tells of the paradox feeling of caring for someone full time - the tireless effort it requires, as well as the monotonous routines it produces. However, before the viewer is able to settle into to a housewife-heroine story, enter Ian. Father of the family, husband to Ann, Ian is the catalyst the accelerates Guthrie’s documentary into a whole other level, as Ian’s secrets and reckless behaviour are left to unfold before the unsuspecting viewer.
Blame is seemingly to be dished out in one main direction, but the crossroads of this epic family drama are utterly wayward, and tragic. As the reality of needing connection and inheritance in life becomes more and more obvious, Karen's objective to display her father’s antics becomes muddied, shifting her punishing treatment of her father into herself and seeing too many similarities to his recklessness for comfort.
Regret, time, family, happiness are floating around in a swampy soup of blinding uncertainty, as the lives of these family members seem pathologically dependent on the behaviour of the other. Except for tIan, who operates in a confusing array of good intentions, poor decisions and blissful ignorance. His booming voice and easy chuckle signify his larger than life attitude, but his obvious lack of clear direction and responsibility are evident in his attempts to rectify the future.
Karen seems to lead the conversations her way at times during the documentary, knowing the answers before they come out which shapes her narrative. But the baffling nature of this human drama is more than enough to surprise. Shocks and revelations keep pouring out til the end as do the humble lessons which are raised.
A touching score accompanies the film, making for a worthy partner to Guthrie's intimate framing. Scenes are edited well, with plenty of variety to avoid a sterile cinematography and also paralleling the multiple viewpoints which are circulating in this claustrophobic home.
What is lovely to see is that the mum's vulnerable physical condition is only played on when totally needed. This is not a cry for pity for the sufferers of strokes, or even how the families struggle - The Closer We Get is an affecting portrait life. This is Bold filmmaking with devastating emotion; brutal, beautiful, tragic and dizzying.
Watch the trailer below...