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Director: Karen Guthrie

Starring: Karen Guthrie, Ian Guthrie, Ann Guthrie

Running Time: 87 mins

Release Date: on VoD 31st August & DVD 5th September

It is often within the everyday that one can find the most peculiar of situations and the traditional family unit often seems to be the most perplexing. Family is so varied in this busy twenty-first-century and through each of us, a clan of relatives, whether they be biological, adoptive of make-shift, effects our very core or helps to mold our very being.

It’s these factors that make documentary films about family so very appealing, acting as a cathartic tool for our own self exploration; giving us the opportunity to look into the world of another and in turn; see ourselves. Karen Guthrie‘s sweet and complex THE CLOSER WE GET is a glorious example of such wonderful, emotive documentary film making. 

Director, narrator and dutiful daughter Karen allows us to peer into the world of her complicated family and live through the loyalty, disappointments, love and redemption that the Guthrie family brings to screen.

Told through home footage and old photographs, much of Guthrie’s film involves a mix of observational and participatory film making as she takes on multiple roles within the film; and so it quickly settles us into this family setting in a very natural and effortless way.

With the film’s original soundtrack having been written and arranged by Scottish musician Malcolm Middleton, we’re first introduced to this family on screen with a background of rather troubling, repetitive music, accompanied by images of their home town and casual shots of the family. This creates a very juxtaposing feeling of both being in a natural, homely setting, while feeling that creep of anxiety and the perhaps darker journey this family is about to uncover.

We’re introduced to the families obvious heart and soul Anne, Karen’s mother, who after suffering from a stroke in early 2008 needs constant caring for, prompting Karen to move back home. Karen’s narrative reads dialogue such as “I never expected my mother to need mothering”, “sometimes luck just runs out” and “there aren’t any emergencies left for me now”. These honest and sweet words immediately open up a crucial sense of vulnerability that leaves a stab of recognition in the heart of its audience, something wonderfully emotive so early on in the narrative.

As the film continues to introduce us to the rest of the Guthrie family it soon becomes clear that this story is willing to give so much more than perhaps anticipated.

Much of the conflict resides in the relationship between the rest of the family and Karen’s father, who we learn so very much about including his separation from his family for much of their childhood. It’s clear that THE CLOSER WE GET is readying itself to dig deep into the family’s history, to drag up their incredible story and honour its audience with the chance to learn about the conflict that resides both within their home and their hearts.

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There’s something so glorious in the tiny chaos that is a family and it’s incredibly humbling to take a peek into the nature of the Guthrie clan. There is something so very special and unique in their situation and  yet there are moments of complete familiarity. Certain looks, snippets of conversation, body language, reoccurring emotions; one can resonate with the little things that repeat themselves within this little unit and that is what makes this documentary stand out as wholly emotive, honest film.

In it’s own way, it is an affirming viewing experience that not only opens up a very private world of one family’s journey, but serves as tool of déjà vu to its spectators.

Anne is a absolute glowing presence within the film, even when the content is centred elsewhere. Her quick quips of humour, sweet nature and general aura of kindness feels very much like home. It’s difficult to imagine an audience member that cannot resonate with the sheer adoration Karen so clearly has for her mother. It makes for such emotional viewing  and just continues to allow us some genuine sympathy towards the family as they clearly grieve for the mother they knew before.

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In all her roles within this documentary, Karen is a fearless woman. A woman that shows so many sides of herself in just eighty-seven-minutes and it is so rewarding to see. She is both incredibly strong and, at times, understandably vulnerable. With her continuous, but sincere and honest narrative, it’s really not long before you feel quite at home within the Guthrie home; all the while feeling the very sobering connections to ones personal role in our own families. 

THE CLOSER WE GET is an affirming and enlightening viewing experience. There’s much to be told, much to be learnt and copious feelings to be felt. It’s as entertaining as it is cathartic and it feels joyfully humbling to see the delicate nature of family’s complications.

From Scotland to Ethiopia and back again, this transatlantic story of such a fascinating, flawed but fiercely loving family has the feeling of something special and as their story unfolds, it’s truly astounding how connected you can feel to film. 


THE CLOSER WE GET is on VoD 31st August & DVD 5th September

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