Oct-Dec 2010 Screenings
His and Hers
2010 - Ken Wardrop - 80 mins - Ireland
Fri 22 Oct 2010 at 8.30 p.m.
Lakeside Hotel, Killaloe
Midnight Court Rating: 4.0 (2 votes)
Storyline: Rarely have the odd and the ordinary combined to such beguiling effect. Winner of a small hatful of prizes over the last year, Ken Wardrop’s debut feature proudly defies categorisation.
Comprising a large number of conversations with ordinary (but remarkable) Irish women, His & Hers certainly satisfies most lucid definitions of a documentary. Listen closely and you will, however, detect a meta-narrative emerging from the cluster of monologues.
Each woman describes her own circumstances, but she also unconsciously contributes to the portrait of a composite personality. Wardrop admits that he intended the film as a tribute to his mother, but an engaging class of covert fiction is also under way.
At any rate, the film, made for peanuts under the Irish Film Board’s Catalyst Scheme, could comfortably be filed in the drawer marked “avant garde”. A compilation of chatting ladies is, after all, not the sort of thing you expect to encounter in your average Enoromoplex.
Well, maybe not. But Wardrop – already acclaimed for a series of touching shorts – has composed such an easily digestible entertainment that it positively demands space in the mainstream. No other film this season has told such a strong story (such strong stories?) with such touching conviction.
His & Hers must have been as hard to make as it is easy to summarise: about 70 women, all from the Irish midlands, arranged in ascending order of age, tell stories about the men in their lives.
Shot in slightly grainy, attractively washed-out colours by Kate McCullough and Michael Lavelle (winners of an award at the Sundance Film Festival), the participants begin by discussing dads, go on to ponder boyfriends, and then move on to sons and husbands. We begin with a baby; we end with an elderly lady philosophically contemplating decline.
As the film progresses, the various unseen men appear to coalesce into a portrait of one decent, slightly useless but hopelessly lovable individual. He makes a nice curry, but he doesn’t do such a good job with the washing-up. When he was a child he had ambitions to move into law enforcement, but his mother never quite bought it. “A guard? A bank robber, more like,” she laughs.
For all the joshing, however, the shared affection between man and woman is never in doubt. Among the most moving of many touching moments comes when a young contributor discusses her boyfriend (and all boyfriends). “It’s like they have your heart in their hands and they can do what they like with it,” she says.
By this stage, Wardrop has established such a warm ambience that the viewer feels confident the clutched heart will be treasured rather than crushed.
Indeed, the few criticisms that have come the way of His & Hers have focused on its apparent cosy view of the chosen milieu. Occasional terrible things happen to the women – the sections on illness and widowhood truly wrench the heartstrings – but this remains a safe environment, largely untouched by violence, stress or marital disharmony.
More curiously, the women rarely convey any sense of their lives outside the home. Where are the female doctors, accountants, firefighters and tree surgeons of the midlands?
Well, His & Hers does not claim to offer any sort of overview of women’s lives in contemporary Ireland. Wardrop’s most impressive achievement is, in fact, to take so many disparate stories (the firefighters may be here, but they don’t talk about fighting fires) and use them to investigate one particular life: a wife and mother in the mould of Mrs Wardrop. His & Hers is, aside from being a very touching film, an enormously impressive formal achievement.
Women’s homes may (for all I know) look quite similar in the midlands, but it takes skill to make every kitchen seem like it abuts the same well-tended, tidily painted corridor.
The result is a near-perfect act of cinematic sleight of hand: a beautiful tale told apparently by accident. No wonder His & Hers is the most lauded Irish film since Hunger. – Donald Clarke, The Irish Times
Winner – Best Irish Feature, Galway Film Fleadh 2009
Winner – World Cinema Cinematography Award, Sundance Film Festival 2010
Winner – Audience Award, Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2010
Winner – Critics Choice Award, Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2010
Winner – Feature Documentary, Irish Film and Television Awards 2010
Cast: 70 women from the midlands of Ireland
Verdicts from the Midnight Court