The Closer We Get review: A review of the Best International Documentary winner from this year’s Hot Docs festival.
Facing tough realisations about the parents she once idolised, Karen Guthrie’s revealing portrayal of a dysfunctional family unit attempting to reunite and forgive is a demanding, captivating and ultimately rewarding watch.
Premiering at Canadian documentary film festival ‘Hot Docs’ earlier this year and taking home the prize for best international documentary, The Closer We Get is a universal story about truth, regret and compassion in the most difficult of circumstances. Writer, director and protagonist Karen Guthrie slowly reveals the dramatic secrets that her family have been dealing with throughout her adult life, much as they were revealed to her.
Her father Ian, often absent in Karen’s childhood owing to working abroad in Ethiopia, fathers a child with a native woman who later comes to live with the family in Scotland. Eventually separating from Ann, the matriarch and physical centre of the family, the couple are brought back together when Ann suffers a life-altering stroke. Never faltering in her humour, compassion and zest for life, Ann is at the heart of this remarkable story. Her relationships with her children and her ex-husband, coupled with her unwavering determination and acceptance of Ian’s son Campbell as a continued presence in their lives, provides an unexpected source of significance and inspiration to Karen in her journey.
Drafted back into the family bosom to help care for her mother, Guthrie uses the opportunity to try and discover more about her father’s second life in Ethiopia, desperate to know more about the man she thought she knew so well. In describing the difficulties she feels being able to ask, finally, for the truth from this once heroic figure, Karen speaks to a conflict in us all. When we’re grown up and making our own decisions, do our parents become our contemporaries and, if so, can we ask for the truth as equals? Relationships that are fundamental to who we grow into as adults, can we stay loyal and learn to forgive our parents when their actions are not what we expect? Guthrie covers her family’s struggles with candor, warmth and wit, allowing the audience to join her in the journey to redemption.
The Closer We Get review by Victoria Bull, November 2015.
The Closer We Get is released in cinemas on 6th November.