The Closer We Get, 2015
dir. Karen Guthrie
Incredibly sad and moving, truly a touching portrait of the life of a regular Scottish family with a distant yet present father. The director Karen Guthrie followed the life of her family after her father returned from a 10-year post in Ethiopia, documenting how his absence affected them, especially after discovering he had had a child with another woman back in Ethiopia. Eventually he brings the young boy to Scotland to live with them, and Guthrie tries to capture most of all how her mother dealt with this fracture in her nuclear family structure. It is narrated by Guthrie and she does interviews with her father, brother, sister and niece, and has old footage of interviews with her mother, who can’t speak much anymore because of a stroke — her mother actually passed away in 2013 and the film is dedicated to her memory.
It was shot very close and personal, and the original score written for the film is beautiful. It’s really interesting to watch this documentary because it is a very small story, a regular family from Glasgow. No one is famous and they haven’t accomplished anything huge, it’s just everyday people, but they are incredibly relatable. Especially with regards to the father, Ian, who is very selfish and not a very good man. The way he completely turns their family upside down with his antics is absurd, and you can tell it took a huge toll not only on their mother, Ann, but the children as well. Through Guthrie’s narration, the way she talks about her father and her mother, we can gauge the impact he’s had on all of them, but also that she doesn’t want to hurt him by telling him about it. It’s everyone’s relationship with their families, it is sad and upsetting, but relatable, and thought-provoking, if uncomfortable.
Perhaps not for everyone, because it is a documentary about a family and it is slow-moving, but if that’s your thing, I would highly recommend it. It’s very moving, and it will make you think about your own family.
review by Mariana Duarte