Documentary filmmaker Alex Fegan specializes in low-key celebrations of Irish life. And The Irish Wedding (RTÉ One 9:35 PM, Monday) echoes the tone and also the slightly curvy quality of his previous films, The Confessors (a profile of priests in modern Ireland) and The Irish Pub (a celebration of the boozer). of the village).
As before, the director’s hand is still resting gently on the bar and there isn’t really much of a message. Instead, Fegan lets events unfold and quietly documents them. His super power is his stealth.
There are a lot of tears, laughs, jokes and sincerity in The Irish Wedding. And because this is Ireland, there is also a scene in which a bride and groom walk under a guard of honor of club men with hurleys held up in the air. Through it all, Fegan’s faith in humanity shines, giving the documentary its sweetness.
We are introduced to a number of couples. They are not named and it can be difficult to tell them apart. At least two are from Cork, one from Galway and one possibly from Clare (or Limerick). There are a number of same sex and bride marriages all over the world including Australia and the United States. Several minority communities in Ireland are represented and Fegan has included honeymooners of all ages.
It shapes the 50-minute documentary as a chronological profile of a typical Irish wedding. It opens with the bride and groom getting ready for the day ahead and sweating over their prepared remarks. Then it’s a cut to churches and registry offices, which are framed in neutral in some sort of Wes Anderson-style flat composition. Then the vows, then the speeches.
It’s very sweet, and there’s a funny comedy as the best men of all ages, colors, and creeds are shown rehashing the same hokey jokes. Parents also participate. “This little wretch was not a good baby,” says a mother of the son she is about to marry. “My wooden spoon was famous and not for cooking.”
Heartache is sprinkled among the joy. A groom expresses his sadness that his mother passed away and therefore could not see him marry. “If I can be half as strong as her, then I have nothing to fear from life,” he says.
Fegan’s documentaries are their own thing and not for everyone. The rowdy side of the Irish nuptials is glossed over – the director stops long before the alliances and DJs turn Rock the Boat.
And The Irish Wedding could have benefited from a deeper dive into the lives of some couples. How did they meet? What challenges did they overcome? Have they been affected by the housing crisis?
But that may be too much to ask. Irish marriage is not about taking the temperature of marriage in modern day Ireland. Fegan is interested in the emotional textures of an Irish marriage: the nerves, the dizziness, the joy, the banality. These he conveys, without ever making himself or his film the center of attention.