Doc/Fest 2014: 112 Weddings review

★★☆☆☆
With approximately half of all marriages ending in divorce, what is it that still compels couples to take the matrimonial plunge? This is the question posed by 112 Weddings (2013), the latest film from documentary filmmaker Doug Block (51 Birch Street, The Kids Grow Up). For over two decades, Block, like many others, has supplemented his income by filming wedding ceremonies. Known on the circuit for his cinéma vérité approach (as aloof as that sounds) and highly-regarded by his satisfied customers, Block now utilises his connections to revisit the "happy couples" years on after the big day. Unfortunately, and perhaps inevitably, the results are a truly mixed bag, often offering limited insight.

"The wedding is day one, and it's the easiest day to make happy. You've just thrown a tonne of money at it, and liquor. A marriage is hard to make happy because when you throw a ton of money and liquor at it, it often makes things worse." These are just some of the thoughts of Rabbi Jonathan Blake, far and away the most humorous and eloquent of all of Block's chosen interviewees. His downgrading of the significance of the hallowed wedding day itself appears backed up by the majority of the married/now divorced former employers that Block seeks out, who largely admit to being ill-prepared for wedlock itself. But who is capable of pre-empting the arguments, betrayal and heartache that marriage can often facilitate? This is as close to a coherent thesis as 112 Weddings ever gets - more's the pity.

Block's warm regard for his subjects is palpable, and some do offer him several pearls of wisdom. A husband and wife whose relationship has been pushed to its limits by their daughter's life-threatening condition, as well as the bouts of depression that induced, are a testament to humankind's fortitude, whilst a beaming lesbian couple speak proudly about their desire to gain public recognition through taking their vows. However, what also becomes apparent is just how miserable many of those featured have become. Like something from Steven Soderbergh's Big Pharma thriller Side Effects (2013), anti-depressants appear to be plentiful and hastily prescribed at the first sign of trouble. Perhaps this is also a part of Block's prognosis; a subtle attempt to critique a society where external pressures amount to such a degree that even the blessed commune of matrimony is enough to send some over the edge. Better suited to the small screen, there are better options available this week for those looking for rest-bite from the football, the sun or even the other half.

For more info about Doug Block's 112 Weddings, visit dogwoof.com.

Sheffield Doc/Fest takes place from 7-12 June 2014. For more of our Sheffield Doc/Fest coverage, follow this link.

Daniel Green

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