It’s an idea so simple it makes you wonder why no one had thought of it till now. A lot of filmmakers make money on the side as a videographer for special events, weddings in particular, but do those men and women that capture those memories ever go back into their editing suite and think about what might have happened to those couples? Are they still together? Did they have kids? Was their road to marital bliss easy or hard?
Doug Block, a part-time wedding photographer, one day became curious about all this and made it the basis for his latest documentary, 112 Weddings, which revisits some of the couples that make up the various weddings that he’s shot over his career.
To Block’s credit, he takes the relatively cutsey concept of going through his filmography of wedding days and reliving the highs and lows and fashion and trends, and says, what I think, is something simple and profound about marriage: it takes work, and it will never be as perfect as it was on your wedding day. While it’s true that most of the couples Block revisits are still together because most of the ones that ended in divorce probably didn’t want to air out their dirty laundry on camera, the successful ones all had the same theme: the course of true love never did run smooth.
The only thing that passes as expert advice is Jonathan Blake, a rabbi friend of Block’s who reinforces that message. Blake is asked if he had the power to change the institution of marriage, what would he do? The answer is to just prepare couples better for the inevitable, to get them to see the value in the “mountain range” of married life. Without the peaks and valleys, there’s no vistas to enjoy, you’re just surrounded by flat land.
Such unconventional (at least in modern romantic comedy terms) advice is one of 112 Weddings‘ charming qualities. Block brings a certain exuberance to the film, as he clearly has a passion for the subject of not just uncovering the updated stories of past couples he’s filmed, but he’s also eager to capture new couples on their big day, too. There’s a tremendous likelihood to be thrown into cynical doubt by something like this, as the movie reminds us that one-half of all marriages end in divorce, but I find it interesting that 112 Weddings never lets one dark cloud ruin a perfect sky, as it were. Even when it discusses the cases where marriage didn’t turn out so good.
One such case is David and Janet, one of Block’s earliest couples. David suffers from manic episodes. They become so bad that by the time he found balance again, his wife Janet had taken their child and left him. Was there warning signs that trouble was ahead? David is shown on his wedding day organizing a small army of pills, and the couple also invited the therapist to the wedding, which might have been a bad omen as the case may be. Still, David talks with great pride and happiness about the day, and seems to have no regrets (although he does take full responsibility for the collapse of the marriage).
Another sad case is Sue and Steve. Looking back, Steve took the “slacker attitude” towards marriage, thinking that it would all turn out well and that everything would be alright in the end. Sue, meanwhile, believed wholeheartedly in happily ever after. Steve would later meet another woman, and feelings of betrayal and depression overtook Sue. Even though marriage turned sour, in one of the most horrible ways possible, there seems to be no real regret. Where was the anger? Where was the recompense? Where was the regret?
Perhaps that’s part of the ever-changing nature of the institution: romance, turns to practicality, turns to romance again. One of Block’s new clients is also an old one: Janice and Alexander. Years ago, they had a “partnership ceremony” to the shock and befuddlement of their family, but now, several years and two kids later, they’re making it a marriage. Although they’re doing it “officially” for the legal protection, they quickly find themselves swept back into the romance of their youth. Their eldest daughter, meanwhile, finds the whole thing kind of funny, the idea after all these years of her life, her parents are finally getting married. It stark contrast, she tells Block that yes, she’s thought about her big day right down to the white dress and big church wedding.
112 Weddings its a great many things for a documentary: it’s a time capsule, it’s a social experiment, it’s a love story – several love stories – and it’s a life lesson. Block’s passion for being a nuptial documentarian is palpable, and although it’s a treat for him to revisit some of his greatest hits, it’s also fun for the audience, which finds itself, amazingly, getting lost in the romance of realism. Simply put, 112 Weddings is just delightful.
112 Weddings is a real-life romantic tale that’s funny, poignant, fascinating and true to life.