When two people get married it is arguably the most important day of their life, but what happens in the days, months, and years after? This is the question that ‘112 Weddings,’ an HBO documentary by filmmaker Doug Block, seeks to answer.
The film is a culling together of footage from weddings and post-marriage interviews of 112 couples (hence the name of the documentary), exploring how marriage has changed their day to day lives and how exactly their marriage works, or, in some cases, didn’t work. From the outset this film is revealed not to be about fairy tale romances and happy endings. It is about how different couples attempt making marriage work. The tagline of the film, “happily ever after is complicated,” is a very good summation of what the documentary reveals. This is not to say that the film is a downer, at least intentionally. It sets out to be a realistic view of marriage, and in this aspect more than anything else it succeeds.
The idea that marriage is complicated is certainly not revolutionary, however this does not discount the value to be found in ‘112 Weddings.’ The film offers a spectrum of couples and relationships that illustrate the utter subjectivity of the marriage experience. If there is one takeaway from this film it is that there is no magic solution to making a marriage work that will fit every couple.
An interesting aspect of the film is the revelation that the idea of a “working marriage” is also entirely subjective. People want and expect different things out of their marriage. Some couples in the film talk about happiness while others seem content with peaceful co-existence or the mere fulfillment of a necessary social norm. If people get married for different reasons then it follows that the success of their marriage will be dependent on different things.
The variables involved with a marriage, including the merging of families, children, employment, and the like, are also brought up, though sometimes only briefly. These are things that have the potential to play a huge part in the success of a marriage, despite existing in the periphery. At times the film does dwell too much on a particular issue, such as children, which shifts the focus away from the study of marriages and more towards relationships in general.
Beyond just examining couples that get married, the film also looks at the question of why people get married. One way this is addressed is by examining the institution through the eyes of a same-sex couple. This gives an interesting perspective of the issue, especially given the fact that their right to get married (in their state) was only recently granted after an arduous fight.
‘112 Weddings’ is an interesting look at life after marriage. It does not have an explicitly political message though it does adhere to, and at times seem to endorse, certain normative understandings of the institution. The line between legal marriage and social marriage is often blurred, and there are no real representations of non-traditional weddings. Block’s decision to portray a large number of marriages instead of just a few brings variety at the cost of a consistent narrative. It would have been interesting to follow a few couples from their decision to get married through their transition into married life, rather than examining the different periods through the eyes of different couples.
Married individuals will likely be able to relate to many aspects of ‘112 Weddings,’ and potential brides and grooms should find its message enlightening, if not instructive. Perpetual singles probably won’t get too much out of the film, beyond the satisfaction of curiosities over what married life can be like.
’112 Weddings’ airs June 30th at 9pm on HBO