Documentaries can be about a variety of subjects. Some contain humour, others have a statement, a message to get across. Yet there are those that perhaps the message that’s taken away is individual to the viewer. Where the subject matter is so personal, the story you are seeing unfold in front of your eyes so moving, that it can only mean different things to different people. That’s how it is with The Closer We Get.
Director Karen Guthrie takes us on a deeply personal journey into her families world after her mother Ann suffers a devastating stroke, forcing Karen to come back home when she least expects it. Also thrown into this world is Ian, Karen’s quiet father who has been separated from Ann for years, living in Djibouti for a lot of the time no less.
You see Ian, upon taking a job in Djibouti, also happened to meet someone new out there, and have a child with that woman. This wasn’t disclosed until some years later when he elects to bring the boy back to the family home in Scotland and no-one really questions it.
Karen takes the chance to document this unique and moving story, so much more than how a family deals with a stroke. It is how do they confront this unspoken situation with Ian, how are the rest of the family dealing with what’s happening, including her brother Mark, the former bass guitarist of The Supernaturals, and her sister.
Ann is an obviously intelligent woman, trapped in a body unable to move, her mind is as sharp as ever and she has a lovely warmth and sometimes humour to proceedings. Karen’s brother and sister don’t appear too much on camera, but when they do you sense a lot of frustration and anger, but it’s left simmering below the surface, never to make its way to the top. Karen meanwhile sits somewhere between the two. Determined to find out the truth, make her father speak about things, but not quite having the voice to ask those hard questions.
This is a brilliantly shot documentary. Karen is quiet, taking traits from both her mother and her father and trying to determine who gave her which. She’s facing this situation for what feels like the first time, the family being, not that dissimilar to my own, of the type that don’t really speak about situations, accepting what’s happening as ‘this is how life is now’.
Which makes Karen’s decision towards the end of the documentary even more surprising, but I’m going to let you discover that for yourself.
This is an amazing documentary. Brilliantly shot, personal and moving. It can also be frustrating in that you want Karen to just ask why, point blank put her father on the spot. But I can totally understand why she doesn’t and it doesn’t take anything away from this superb documentary.
‘The Closer We Get is in UK cinemas 6 November http://thecloserweget.com/