112 Weddings

Sophia Satchell Baeza

Artists – including, it seems, documentarians – also have to have a day job. Over the last two decades, the New York documentarian Doug Block has been making money on the side videotaping weddings. And now, on the eve of his 112th, he decides to make a film about some of those couples whose wedding celebrations he’s filmed over the years. In these interviews, made sometimes decades after a particular marriage, he asks the couples frank questions about their romance, about their reasons and expectations for marriage. And the answers are phenomenal.

On first glance, 112 Weddings could be the kind of quirky self-involved New Yoik shtick that years of bad Woody Allen films have instilled the equivalent of a gluten intolerance. And yet the film is hilarious – the sort of black romantic comedy about unavoidable heartache, ruined opportunities and shattered expectations that leaves you joyfully skipping out of the cinema. Block’s voice-over narrative doesn’t take a stance on marriage, but the footage and stories speak for themselves. By following the trials inherent in committing to one person, it posits the question – when half of people end up divorced, why even bother?

The success of the film undoubtedly lies in its characters. Clearly, Block has developed the sort of professional and personal relationships with his subjects that make them comfortable opening up emotional veins all over his film couch. From couple to couple, we alternate between the laugh-out-loud funny to the genuinely heartbreaking. With some couples, the silences speak volumes, the unsaid leaving you guessing days after the film has finished.

112 Weddings is peculiarly raw filmmaking – dark and real, but comfortably populist too. It’s also unusually uncritical: middle-class hippy partnership ceremonies in a grassy field, gaggles of therapists and discussions on anti-depressants in New York lofts among scriptwriters and media types. What makes the film so fascinating is that the gut-wrenching honesty doesn’t come at a price. Block clearly loves his characters, and you really wonder where he found them. The neurotic couple that speak at the same time is the ideal fodder for so many New York dramas, and yet good luck to the director who tries to recreate to equal hilarity.

My only criticism is simple. The focus on heterosexual couples is highly unsurprising, given America’s troubled history of same-sex marriage, and the film’s obvious heteronormative stance is confirmed throughout. While Block includes a brief mention of a lesbian couple (two photographers who momentarily discuss marriage) he never returns to their story, giving the impression of frustrating tokenism, as we return to the other couples throughout. Accusations of tokenism are a rough call, I know – you lose if you do, you lose if you don’t. I only wish we’d got to see more of the photographers, or not at all.

112 Weddings is a film for both romantics and the perversely unsentimental. Doused in a bittersweet brand of New York witticism, and packed with a host of colourful characters – the ideal comedy, really.

Follow Sophia on Twitter: @SophiaSB1

'112 Weddings' is released in cinemas on 13 June. For more info, head over here.

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