Release date: April 11th 2011
Certificate (UK): U
Running time: 83 minutes
Director: Ken Wardrop
Cast: Geraldine Igo, Eilish Beglan, Mary Harton
With this old Irish proverb opens His & Hers, a documentary where no fewer than seventy daughters, lovers, wives and mothers from middle Ireland speak with affable candour on the subject of their special lads.
With neither a narrator nor any other explicit narrative cues (chapter divisions, for example), the tone of His & Hers is down to the interviewer’s questions- which we don’t hear- and editing. It would seem that the conversations were kept cheerful and undemanding, rarely straying from light-hearted banter; and when the questioning did depart these safer shores, artsy editing could step in to ameliorate the direct sight of suffering.
I think what it’s going for is a kind of quasi-religious village-fête celebration of life: Louis Armstrong growling What a Wonderful World as soundtrack to the quaint silliness of Father Ted, as it sometimes seemed to me. Indeed much of the humour comes from (fond) stereotypes- for an English audience, anyway.
At least for half of the film this is all very disarming. These rustic Irish folk are earnest, gentle, kind, forgiving, open and sometimes delightfully eccentric. We’re moved by their affections and we chuckle at their foibles. The laughs are regular and hearty.
Director Ken Wardrop acknowledges that His & Hers is really a film about men; and from the congregation of interviewees, who for the most part appear to be quite traditional, we get the slightly unsettling impression of a lingering patriarchal accent to their lives- albeit sometimes softened with some concessions to sexual equality (one newlywed speaks with pride of her husband doing his own laundry).
The film certainly presents an oppressively narrow vision of gender relationships: straight, conventional, and unperturbed by two of the more popular of marital activities – infidelity and divorce.
His & Hers is then in some ways a rather parochial and naïve film- but maybe that’s what it wants to be. In so far as it reflects a traditional Ireland it promotes it. The festive cheer is perhaps innocuous enough, and it quite bravely undertakes to confront and cope with a selection of the more obdurate issues in life, like old age and death.
But with Father Ted on the one hand, and Our Father Who Art in Heaven on the other, His & Hers has a rather strange dynamic: the first half stuffs you with anodyne while the second pokes you in unpleasant places with a pointed stick. A little like life, then, I suppose.
Dominic is an English graduate, promiscuous dilettante and epistemological liability. He likes the sentimentalisation of loathsomeness, fetishized Teutonic Romanticism, the labour theory of value and Manchester United’s transcendent Bulgarian striker, Dimitar Berbatov. He abominates Certainty, curses The Wealth of Nations, and detests only mayonnaise more than asinine bathetic turns.
His favourite kinds of film are laborious, unyielding, laboriously unyielding, anything you’ve never heard of, and pornographic. At twenty-three, his achievements include A Spectroscopic Study of the Notion of Perineum in Jane Austen’s Later-Early Period, for which he won a MOBO award, and this sentence.