The economic crisis, the minimum wage, ‘the rich getting richer’ – all hot topics in recent years. Now here’s a documentary film that aims to explore all of these and more in a cutting-edge fashion, of which The Divide does a solid, if not spectacular job.
And as commendable an effort as it is from director and producer Katharine Round, this adaptation of Kate Pickett and Richard G. Wilkinson‘s The Spirit Level, could have been even better. The attention to detail is there throughout, whether the picture is analysing from a social, political or economic perspective, so what’s stopped a good piece of filmmaking from being great?
The alarm bells are set off pretty much from the word go. We are introduced to the collection of individuals who are about to provide us with an insight into their lives that are at the centre of the piece. A mixture of American and British, male and female, rich and poor, black and white – there’s clearly the right balance as required. But, and this is particularly true when we’re watching the day-to-day existence of the less fortunate unfold, it all seems a little clichéd at times and therefore The Divide suffers in these instances, as it can feel like something you’ve seen a million times before.
A selling point of the movie is that it isn’t based on real life, but is real life. With this in mind, it could have gone anywhere but has missed the opportunity to focus on more unexpected towns and cities in order to show how far-reaching today’s problems are. A young man in Glasgow in the process of kicking his habit, or a struggling single matriarch in the Deep South are a little too familiar and par for the course.
But let’s focus on the positives, for there are many of them. There is some decent camerawork and direction, plus the footage of speeches from the likes of Thatcher and Reagan, right through to Blair and Obama, is a clever way of touching on what’s about to come, as if they are curtain-raisers to each individual stanza. Candid interviews with the ordinary Joes, as well leading economists and historians, really hammer the film’s message home.
Although the editing can be a little haphazard in places, which sometimes makes it difficult to keep up, no stone is left unturned, which for something that lasts 74 minutes is some achievement. We are therefore left to ponder throughout, both in terms of the moral compass of those at the top, as well as how the hell those who find themselves in the most desperate of situations manage to stay so positive – or if the brave faces are merely for the benefit of the camera.
In cinemas nationwide from May 31, The Divide is a worthy attempt at piecing together what’s really a the heart of modern society’s woes, but is not quite incisive enough to counter a small sense of what might have been. For more, go to www.thedividedocumentary.com or www.facebook.com/DivideFilm.
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