Linda Bloodworth-Thomason’s Documentary Bridegroom A Powerful DIY Love Story

Stirring documentary Bridegroom to be available for all Netflix members on October 27th (PRNewsFoto/Netflix)
Stirring documentary Bridegroom to be available for all Netflix members on October 27th (PRNewsFoto/Netflix)

There’s a line from David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. It goes something like “you learn that if there is a God, he works on Earth solely through human beings.”

Bridegroom is a love story after the fact. The fact is the death of one half of the couple, leaving the other to retell their love. The film is a documentary recalling the story of these two lovers, Tom and Shane, from their childhoods, to their meeting ( a setup in a bowling alley), to their falling in love, life together, the tragic accident that kills Tom and the subsequent denial and ostracization from Tom’s memory by his family that Shane is forced to suffer. “Bridegroom,” we learn, is the word Tom’s parent have engraved on his monument. This film, then, is the alternative narrative and the real monument to Tom as he was, not as he was depicted to be.

The film is largely rendered in home video, family photos, and face-on-black-screen testimony from friends and loved ones of Tom and Shane. These all culminate to its stark, DIY aesthetic. So deeply felt that it often verges on melodrama, Shane’s testament to the love of his life becomes a meta-film really about the error of depiction and perspective.

Starting off telling the alternating childhood stories of Tom and Shane, we see video diaries from Shane about his not wanting to be seen, his desire to hide for being who he is. With this he’s enacting the depiction-concealment paradox that structures the film. It’s a theme that reaches its climax when Tom’s family bars Shane from Tom’s funeral and essentially cuts Shane out of Tom’s life and memory. In doing so they recall and depict a Tom that was not real, and shame themselves. Bridegroom offers us a more true memory.

With lots of symbolic moments that rend on the viewer (Shane goes, alone, to the Taj Mahal on Christmas, Tom sings a love-song called “If I Fall,” the first thirty seconds of the film are a channel-down rainbow signal and error-tone) the film shows God on earth working through people, making them into monuments, trying to correct one of man’s greatest errors of interpretation. The only real sinners in the movie are those that refuse to see.

Bridegroom premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival April 2013, where it won the Audience Award for Best Documentary Film. It will be released for streaming on Netflix October 27, and available on DVD November 19, 2013.

Zach Buck

Zach Buck

Zach Buck is a writer and editor currently living in South Korea. He serves as the official editor of Spatial Studies magazine HEADREST. In 2016 he released experimental digital archive game house.xct_ with Other Families, and it can be read about on otherfamilies.ca.

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