His and Hers (2010) dir. Ken Wardrop
By Alan Bacchus
If you're in Toronto next Sunday, please come on out to the inaugural Toronto Irish Film Festival at TIFF Bell Lightbox, celebrating a number of fine films the Emerald Isle has to offer. Specifically, Ken Wardrop's delightful heartwarming documentary ode to women and their relationships with men.
Wardrop is kind of a legend in short filmmaking with a dozen or so idiosyncratic shorts which have won numerous awards around the world. Now, with the chance to make the big leap to features, his creative ingenuity successfully translates to the longer form.
It’s a remarkably simple concept - Wardrop attempts to tell the general story of women’s relationships with men from every age group of womanhood, from birth to death. A series of unrelated interviews with women who don’t know each other or have no connection whatsoever remarkably makes for a profound existential experience with the whole greater than the sum of its parts.
Wardrop’s sense of humour and overall light tone is evident from the very first interview with a 3 month old infant in a crib. Of course the baby can’t talk, but its just the first form of life when a female comes into contact with a man - her father staring down at her in her crib. The next set of interviews are with young girls aged 1, 2, and 3, responding to offscreen questions telling stories about their dad or brother which is surprisingly profound and engaging from their unique point of view.
We start to notice the pattern at this point and one by one Wardrop’s interviewees age slowly and surely. As the women age their stories change. The pre-teen girls talk about their bratty brothers or annoying fathers, the teenagers talk gossipy about their adolescent crushes and the twenty-somethings talk boyfriends and marriages. And at the age when most women start bearing children we become privy to the joyous bond between woman (as mother) and child (as son).
And suddenly we notice the types of stories doubling back on itself, seeing the perspective change from childhood to adulthood.
The personalities differ with each interview and though all common sense would say that to tell a good story - documentary or fiction - we need to attach and identify with the characters - strangely with each 2-3 min interview Wardrope manages to find a dialogue so identifiable to the audience that all we need is this short period of time to fall in love and get sucked in by their lives.
And by the end, when the last elderly woman reflects on her life as a woman in relation to her family which is below her age, I was reminded of that great children’s book “Love You Forever” by Robert N. Munsch about the child born and loved by her mother, then gradually grows up and has her own daughter to care for and eventually in elder age must be cared for and loved by her own daughter. Like Munsch‘s book ‘His and Hers’ is a great and profound story about this cycle of life, love and family.
I need to go and hug my mom, my wife and my young 17-month-old son now.