film review: His & Hers (2010)

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His and Hers posterI had to think about this one.

Well, I think about all my reviews – words don’t appear on the screen by themselves* – but usually it’s less about what I’m going to say and more about how I’m going to say it. This film had me thinking about… stuff.

Ah ok, there’s no point in shying away from it. It had me thinking about how circumstances shape lives… and, to a certain degree, how different my life could have been. Doesn’t really have anything to do with the specific subject matter of the film… but I felt that, through the way the film told it’s story, it invited you to have a look at your own story. Err… perhaps more so if you happen to be a woman…

… but I do think that there’s something there that everyone can relate to. It struck a chord with me and I believe that it really does almost force you to look at your own life. Whether you’re happy with what you see or not is really up to you.

Or maybe I’m just getting carried away, after all I don’t know if it’s by accident or design. And besides, what do I know? Perhaps it’s one of those things I should have asked the director – I was lucky enough to catch this at a Q+A session organised by Element Pictures, the distributors of the film.

Let’s talk about the film.

His & Hers is a documentary from Irish writer and director Ken Wardrop. Up until now it seems he has been a very successful short film director. I know extremely little about the short film landscape in Ireland but if it’s producing directors like this then I’m thinking I should probably go have a look. I do at least know where to start. If you mosey on over to the Irish Film Board website you’ll find their Short Film Channel. I have no idea how up to date that part of the site is but there certainly are plenty of short films to have a look at.

Umm… back to the film. Yes. It doesn’t require a whole lot more introduction other than what you have probably already read about it. His & Hers is a feature length documentary – a woman’s story of the man in her life, told through the voices of 70 Irish women in the midlands. That really is all you need to know about it, to tell you more would be to tell you the story and I think it’s best that you hear that story in the women’s own words.

To be honest when I heard what it was about I just didn’t really see how it would be done. Not that I thought it wouldn’t be possible, more that I just couldn’t imagine it. I ain’t that imaginative you see. Fortunately Wardrop is. He has used his experience in short film to create a cohesive, if somewhat loose, narrative from what was undoubtedly hours of footage. Together with his excellent cinematographers, Michael Lavelle and Kate McCullough, Wardrop has created a little window into the Irish woman’s life.

I do want to make a quick comment about the cinematography. I’m a little obsessed with that. The work in His & Hers is really outstanding and I’m happy to say that it was recognised at the Sundance festival this year.

I know I’m raving a bit here so you’re probably wonder why I’m only giving this 8/10. The fact is that, when the credits rolled, I had more that a few questions over the choices that Wardrop made in the sequences he chose to include. I found it a bit strange that, for the most part, all the experiences included were very positive. I thought it was odd that there were so few women of my age (30). Also I don’t know why there was no talk of the women’s relationships with their brothers… Dads and partners, but not brothers.

Fortunately Mr. Wardrop was on hand to answer some of those questions.

In his own words, His & Hers is an attempt to tell a happy story, one based on his mother’s life and her relationship with his father and, presumably with himself. This is not a disparate story by any means. He had one personal vision for the story he wanted to tell. To me that explains why there are no villains and few younger women – I assume he best knows the story of his mother from when he met her, so to speak… Course if could have been that younger women were less candid. He wasn’t specific but, I suspect that wasn’t particularly the case. He did say that he found the older women’s stories more interesting. Interesting to him I guess, this is an entirely personal film, not an attempt at an anthropological study.

Still I’m giving this 8/10 because, while I really found this to be a fascinating and (to my surprise) thought provoking documentary – when you watch it, it really isn’t obvious what he set out to do. It was great to hear him explain it but I’m certainly not the only reviewer who wondered about those particular points and more.

I do however recommend everyone go see this film. It’s a wonderful story, genuine, honest and beautifully shot to boot.


To find a cinema showing it have a look at their official website

And if you want to know more about Ken Wardrop I recommend Donald Clarke’s interview with him in the Irish Times

* actually, words do sometimes appear on the screen by themselves – damn automatic typing fingers.

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