Review: The Closer We Get

DVD: The Closer We Get (2015)

The Closer We Get is a film that shouldn’t work, its premise seems far too thin; a white middle-class family reuniting over the illness of a mother. However nothing is what it seems and we soon discover that it’s not the movie that writer/director/narrator Karen Guthrie intended to make but its story changed when her mother suffered a disabling stroke.

The family roles change as they often do under such circumstances; the former carer become the cared for, as Karen and family rally to help. This includes her father, an often unlikeable character who had previously left the family home many years earlier for a life in Africa but returned and now helps to care for his ex wife. The documentary style slowly peals away layer after layer revealing that the family discovered a sibling; a brother who is the product of a relationship the father had when he lived in Ethiopia. Although he endeavours to play the patriarchal role, criticising the shortcomings of his children while being quite matter-of-fact regarding his own past.

What makes this story so fascinating is the way family deal with the changes within the dynamic. There is an element of bewilderment and frustration with the father but no one turns into a Jeremy Kyle rage-filled stereotype. There is acceptance among the siblings and it is Karen’s mother, who despite her illness retains a gentleness and sense of humour. Without that this would be an uncomfortable experience as the viewer could feel that it is too voyeuristic and that they were intruding. The story then takes a final twist as it moves to Africa where the narrator tries to make sense of new changes and how this will impact the family’s future.

This is a film that stays long in the memory as does the soundtrack composed by former Arab Strap member Malcolm Middleton. Days after watching you are still thinking about the future lives of its subjects.

Review by Steve (co-host of 60 Minutes With).