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In America – ★★★
Ken Wardrop’s His & Hers has achieved a sort of modern classic status in the Irish film industry, with people rooting for this little underdog of a documentary about Irish women’s relationships with men since it first played in 2011. If you’ll excuse the hyperbole, it felt like it arrived at a time when the brand for Irish Mammies was being emblazoned on tea towels and amidst a newfound respect for staunch Grannies and Mammies who were helping keep a generation of young men fed and watered following a recession which most impacted a generation of those involved in the construction and engineering industries.
Since then Wardrop’s craft has been imitated by others, most notably in the well-received Alex Fegan docs The Irish Pub and Older Than Ireland. Rather than risk any accusations of repetition, Wardrop has decided to make his next documentary in America – in Oklahoma City to be more precise – in the manliest city in America and Wardrop wants to show these manly men’s relationships with their mothers. All very honourable.
Tying the whole film together is the unknown American DJ Joe Cristiano and his talk-show “The Joe Show”. All of our participants are introduced in shots that show them turning on the radio, as if they’re listening to “The Joe Show”. It’s a narrative technique which very quickly gets very testing and irritating and you sense that Wardrop and his producer Andrew Freedman would have been better served to have dropped it in the edit and just given us the mother and son stories, maybe with a little introduction from Joe Cristiano at the beginning.
As for those stories and characters they vary hugely. A casting director is present in the credits and in his post-film Q&A Wardrop mentioned working toward storylines and looking for a hook. You just get the sense that the whole thing was too over-thought and wrapped up in the constructed structure that they had in mind. Some of those featured are incredible and will linger long in your memory.
For whatever reason Wardrop opted to shoot in the 4:3 standard, which leaves Oklahoma’s landscapes without the scenic expanse that would be afforded by widescreen. It’s also shot (and possibly graded) in a very washed out white colour palette which leaves the whole film without any contrasting images that will stick in your mind.
It’s a perfectly fine documentary which sheds plenty of light on American society, but when viewed up against its predecessor this has to be seen as a massive disappointment.
Mom and Me is out in Ireland on the 15th of July, 2016
Director Ken Wardrop
Producer Andrew Freedman
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