REVIEW: 112 Weddings

Reviewed by Marc Glassman

You’ve got to hand it to Doug Block. With 112 Weddings, he’s quietly completed one of the loosest yet most compelling first-person trilogies in contemporary documentary practice. Starting with 51 Birch Street and continuing through The Kids Grow Up, Block created indelible portraits of his family, as they grew, aged and changed. He won awards for the films, which travelled widely and won him an international reputation.

But like all too many doc-makers, Block had to back up his personal filmmaking by taking on other jobs. A veteran cameraman and producer, he’s shot over 100 wedding videos during the past couple of decades. An engaging man, Block clearly got to know some of the couples quite well; it might have been a job but he’s not the sort of individual to phone in an assignment.

Now, he’s made a film in which he goes back to some of those couples to find out how they’re doing. It’s a simple idea that becomes more complex as Block’s nostalgic investigation continues. Like everything he does, Block’s 112 Weddings only develops over-arching themes as the real-life stories unfold. His structure is clear: we see scenes from each couple’s marriage intercut with how things are working now.

Each story is different but there are resemblances that add to the drama of each tale. One couple is dealing with a tragically ill child while another simply makes fun about the loss of romance since “baby” came around while a third adjusts to a kid with learning disabilities.

Two couples are divorced. In one case, only the husband appears—a sad figure, who misses his wife and child but is obviously in a very fragile state, unlikely ever to revive the relationship. In the other, the audience can see a pairing drifting apart over the years until the inevitable ‘other woman’ causes the final split.

Block embellishes his narrative by concentrating on two couples who are about to married. In one case, the two were free spirits whose “wedding” had not been legal or conventionally religious. Now, they go for a more conventional affair—accompanied by their children. The main story documents a young couple going to America’s heartland in Montana to get married, far away from the sophistication of New York.

Marriage has been an important subject for Block since 51 Birch Street, when he discovered that his parents’ relationship had been far more problematic than he had known. While The Kids Grow Up is more about his connection with his daughter than anything else, there are echoes of disquiet in his own marriage that operate as a subtext throughout the film.

With 112 Weddings, he has finally been able to examine the drama of marriage in a more intense way. Funny in parts, often dramatic, this is a wonderful human film that deserves a wide and diverse audience.