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Rachel Getting Married

02/04/2011

Feature review, printed in Little White Lies magazine, October 2008.


As someone who lets slip the odd sob watching Don’t Tell The Bride, I should have guessed from the film’s title that waterproof mascara might be in order. As it was, I emerged from the press screening a streaky-faced, gibbering wreck. Such public outpourings are often accompanied by the sneaking suspicion of having been manipulated, but that feeling couldn’t have been further from my mind as I stumbled down the moonlit street, blinded by tears and crashing into tourists, my faith in the cathartic power of cinema restored.

Because, though centred around a wedding, this is no chick flick. It documents a few short days in the life of a loving family divided by grief and addiction, and is so far from being formulaic it feels more like a home movie than anything else. The film’s power to move lies in its sudden shifts from tender love, to intolerable pain, to unspeakable violence and back again. Whilst vertiginous at times, Lunet’s screenplay (her first) never feels forced, and in fact it’s the relentless pendulum of the plot that makes it such an accurate reflection of dysfunctional family life.

The pitch-perfect script is enhanced by Jonathon Demme’s spontaneous shooting style. Shots are unplanned, scenes unrehearsed and sometimes improvised, whilst the extensive wedding party is a mixture of professional actors, musicians, and friends of the director, invited to meet and mingle on-set to create a realistic atmosphere. Against this bohemian backdrop, Anne Hathaway is sublime as the acerbic Kym, a recovering addict fighting hard for her place in the family. Kym is both the product of tragedy and the catalyst for further grief, and whilst we share her point of view for much of the film, we’re also made to sympathise with characters that are diametrically opposed to her.

This neutral/partial perspective is achieved by the freely wandering camera, making it feel at times as though the family are being watched over by a departed friend. The days leading up to the beautiful and carefully planned wedding are pierced by fragments of the past, so that the present somehow contains all the histories, and all the futures, of its participants. Lunet’s powers of allusion are deployed so subtly, however, the filmgoer is quickly made to feel part of this family, and a guest at this wedding. I strongly urge you to accept the invitation to see Rachel Getting Married. Just don’t forget the hankies.

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