Because We Have Each Other Review – An Embracing Slice of Life Documentary

Because We Have Each Other begins by giving a warm welcome to all who are watching. Someone off camera is being told to get off the toilet, an eager rush to get a family in place to record audio for the very film you are about to witness.

Award-winning Australian director Sari Braithwaite clearly wants to breathe life into the mundane. Taking centre stage is the working-class suburb of Logan, a local town where we meet the Barnes family – Janet, Buddha, and their five children. They have all agreed to a five-year experiment: they will all be observed and recorded as they live out their day to day lives. Over that time, love and loss, perseverance and struggle, trauma and solidarity – every moment of this family is laid bare in candid verité form.

Every member of the family is given significant insight. Janet – a full time carer- spent ten years a single mum with no money. She has successfully bridged both her and her husbands kids together in a positive home environment. Her devoted husband Buddha – a motorcycle nut – taught himself to read at fifteen before having three children. Becky – Janet’s daughter – is one of about eighty in the world who has Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM), she can remember every single day of her life. She is learning multiple languages to promote autistic advocacy.

Jessica – Janet’s youngest – is a great lover of old Hollywood, she struggles with anxiety but has a strong voice for comedy. Kylie – eldest of Buddha’s children – wants independence and quickly moves out of home, greatly supported in a group environment. She works in a packing warehouse but still faces struggles with her past. Dylan – the youngest of Buddha’s – was surrendered by his birth mother as a baby. He has a gentle nature and is still finding his place in the world. This lastly leaves Brendan – also Buddha’s – he is a car fanatic and works with his father who he is close with. He has completed a spray painting apprenticeship to which he is proud of.

There is a common myth that the City of Logan, residing on the outskirts of Brisbane, is to be looked down on in contempt for its unemployment and crime. What this film does is dispel that notion, instead humanising a youthful town where life is bursting at the seams, the camera holding nothing but admiration for what Janet believes is her “little patch of paradise”. Over 6% of the population live with disability, and this documentary is to be applauded for championing neurodiverse perspectives with humanity and fondness.

Very early on you will notice what is a recurring visual motif – the camera looking right out into the sky, presenting both the blue hues of the day, and the multitudinous stars of the night. Janet finds it “mind-blowingly wonderful” that humans have the capacity to live within our own “infinite universe” on a day-to-day basis. The camera does a musing job of reminding us that no matter how far away the cosmos may feel, there is something magnificent about putting the everyday human condition in the foreground of our own universe.

There is also a sincere amount of melodic brass that plays in the background quite regularly, an operatic ode to the Barnes boys’ love for Star Wars. Composer Munro Milano is clearly channelling John Williams here, but instead of supporting the realm of fantasy and science fiction, his music speaks to the reality and ordinary nature of life. It is emotionally affecting in all the right ways – whilst speaking true to who this family really are.

The embracing nature of Because We Have Each Other is that you’ll likely feel a part of the family by the time the credits roll. Braithwaite built a strong connection to every member of the family, allowing that intamacy to shine through on screen. Its slice of life charm will envelop you like the comfort of a warm blanket on a winter’s night. There are no flashy or dramatic revelations, just the stories of seven realised individuals, whether it be their successes, vulnerabilities, or deepest memories. Sometimes it can feel a bit too distant, a common problem with observational filmmaking.

You might fall asleep during it, you might gaze off into the distance, but that’s okay. The Barnes family understands – they even make a joke about this themselves by the end. Life is never about continual excitement and thrill. Sometimes we all need to take a long hard stare into the sky and revel in our own universe – no matter how banal it may be. For Janet and Buddha, the beauty of looking up is knowing that when they look back down – they find solace that the universe brought them together. They know they have each other.

For Buddha who questions “what is poor” when he has a roof over his head and a loving family he cares for, Because We Have Each Other is a simple but moving little documentary that questions the notion of worth. This is a lovely family, and spending time with them is the greatest gift this film can give.

Director: Sari Braithwaite

Featuring: Janet Barnes, Buddha Barnes, Becky Sharrock, Jessica Sharrock, Kylie Barnes, Brendan Barnes, Dylan Barnes

Composer: Munro Melano

Kahn Duncan

Kahn is a passionate Melbourne based film lover who looks to film as a tool for both entertainment, education, but also feeling. Attempts to watch at least one feature film a day, but unfortunately life gets in the way sometimes. Prospective Graduate of Media Communications (Screen Studies) and Business (Marketing) at Monash University.

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