Life, love, and men through the eyes of over 70 Irish women.
Dir. Ken Wardrop, 2009, 80 min, Viewed via Netflix Instant
An infant whines in her crib. She turns into a several-month-old, crawling towards a door. She goes through the door as a toddler. She arrives at a couch as a four-year-old, and talks about her daddy. Then she’s five. Six. A preteen. A teen. A young adult. A twenty-something. So on and so forth, until she’s in her nineties. Along the way, her conversation evolves. After a certain point, she speaks more about her boyfriend than her dad. Then her husband. Then her son. Then her father is gone and she talks about him again. Then her husband is gone and she returns to speaking about him. In the space of less than an hour and a half, we’ve gone through a lifetime’s love story. And we’ve been told this story by more than 70 different women.
What director Ken Wardrop has done is visit each of these women, each of them progressively, slightly older than the one previous, and all of them residents of the Midlands Region of Ireland. He comes to a woman’s house, and she speaks about the man or men in her life for a very brief time, never more than a few minutes. Then he moves on to the next woman. From this vast mosaic of experience he creates a single narrative. Enclosed in these many stories about times good and bad, romantic and frustrating, are a greater, more universal story. And there’s something very beautiful about that.
It’s only universal up to a point, though, which is the movie’s sole failing. I don’t think it’s necessarily a problem that all the females hail from a single, miniscule geographical area. But the fact that, within this framework, we hear only of white, straight romance feels constricting. This narrow vision also means that we only see these women’s lives as they are defined by the men in those lives. Alison Bechdel would not approve. As nice as this movie is, I want to see someone else use the same concept, but visit a far greater range of women. That would be something truly great to behold.
But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t true greatness in this film. At its best, it’s highly reminiscent of The Family Album. Every visit with a woman could be considered its own micro-film. In the space of just a few moments, it could make you laugh out loud or break your heart. It gets especially emotional towards the end, as the things the women share shift from an active, “living in the moment” experience to a more reminiscent mode. First they talk about how their husbands die, and then they remember the good times. The final visit especially brought mistiness to my eyes.
His & Hers is lovely and unique, burdened only by the limits inherent in its scope. It’s a loving testament to everything we that’s great about daughters, wives, and mothers. If it included what’s great about women as, say, sisters, or friends, and not just within the confines of their relationships with males, I’d love it even more. But I still loved it as it is.