Documentarian Karen Guthrie turns the camera on her own family for a painfully raw telling of their struggles in The Closer We Get.

Early on we are shown Karen’s day-to-day life with her parents Anne and Ian. Her mother Anne has sadly suffered a debilitating stroke and needs round the clock care. Her father Ian seems an almost benign presence in the background. Usually working on a cross word or watching the TV with a piece of cake in hand. It’s not immediately clear what the film is trying to show us. Is it a study of a family coming to terms with a major change brought on by illness. Karen’s own mournful voice over points to something much more intriguing and destructive bubbling underneath.

closer2A great deal of the films power comes from the slow reveal of the Guthrie’s family history and the less you know the better so I won’t go in too a great deal of detail. Suffice it to say as a viewer you’re often tested as to whether or not you actually want to be in the company of some certain people. Not that their crimes are so catastrophic like Capturing the Friedman’s but it’s a revealing side of human nature, of what people with a blinkered view of their own lives can do to those around them.

There are times that you may question if some of the actions here were planned. “Plot points” as you will do seem to conveniently appear in what I had earlier been wandering “what was Guthrie’s original purpose in making the film”. New information and scenes come to light that seem almost too perfect. Perhaps that it is my paranoia as a viewer and in fact The Closer We Get is a genuinely fascinating tale of a family with increasing skeleton’s in the cupboard.

Using a mix of specially shot footage, home movies and footage shot back in the 90’s with an almost Nostradamus sense of fore-sight it’s a very thoroughly telling of the Guthrie’s internal workings.

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It’s also a heartbreaking look at what damage strokes do to not only the person afflicted but to the people around them. Similar to last year’s The Possibilities Are Endless it manages to be both inspirational and upsetting. The moments where Karen simply strokes her mum’s hair are so beautifully tender that you would have to have a heart of stone to be unaffected.

The only niggle I had with the film was Guthrie’s narration. So downbeat at times she quietens to almost a whisper which was genuinely hard to follow and I found myself having to lean in more than a few times even  with the volume at max. That quibble aside The Closer We Get is an disarmingly frank and both haunting and beautiful in it’s portrayal of a family fractured by selfishness.

4/5

Dir: Karen Guthrie

Scr: Karen Guthrie

Starring: Karen Guthrie, Anne Guthrie, Ian Guthrie

Prd: Karen Guthrie, Nina Pope

DOP: Karen Guthrie, Nina Pope, Kate Reid

Music: Malcolm Middleton

Country: UK

Year: 2015

Run time: 85 mins 

 

The Closer We Get will receive it’s world premiere at HotDocs 2015 on April 29th.