The New Man is a documentary about becoming a parent which, based on the trailer, made me think this was going to be a little too light-hearted and knockabout, but I was so wrong.
The trailer says the film it’s aimed at anyone who has children… anyone who wants them… (and, personally, I have no major desire to sire a child) and anyone who still feels like a child themselves (tick!). Despite not quite fulfilling Meatloaf’s maths for me, one out of three ain’t bad… in fact, it’s far more than that – it led to what I found a captivating documentary.
Writer-director couple Josh Appignanesi and Devorah Baum have let us into their lives at a criticial juncture. While Devorah eventually becomes pregnant – and with twins – following IVF treatment, Josh worries about being a potentially bad father, not only because he’s never been a parent before, but also because he’s not sure if he can provide, with captions that show what he’s thinking, plus the fears that he’s failing in life as a person because he’s been out of paid work for a year, to which his father replies lightheartedly, “I’ve been out of paid work all my life(!)”
Including interviews with many family and friends, yes, there is some humour in this, but the pendulum also swings the other way, such as when it’s suggested he’s making the film because he’s having a breakdown. He isn’t the only one who’s worrying, though…
- Devorah: “Will I ever get my mind back?”
Josh: “When you had it, you didn’t like it that much”
Even when going away for a few days to Spain with a friend, Josh can’t get away from the sound of children, as one baby starts crying in a restaurant, and there are important discussions to be had which have to take place over the phone at a time when he wishes he could be in two places at the same time.
The New Man is a raw documentary showing the highs and the lows and the extreme lows of everything Josh and Devorah go through. There are elements of within which show the cruel harshness when reality comes crashing down on you, and which everyone watching would hope had never happened, but while some documentary makers might’ve wanted to skip over such moments for reasons you would certainly understand, those elements are brought to the screen with striking honesty in a documentary in the same way that (and politics aside), say, Ken Loach would bring to one of his films.
Brilliantly edited down to a tight 75 minutes, the film includes nothing unnecessary and keeps the focus on everything required to tell the story. As I stated earlier, I’m not looking to procreate, but the way it’s been put together grips you early on and never lets go.
The New Man is a must-see film. It’s very personal and insightful and it drew me in as someone without children, so for anyone WITH children (and there are a lot of them), you should make immediate plans to watch this incredible piece of work.
For a physical format, the film has only been released on DVD, but with streaming being increasingly part of our world, I can see this being viewed the latter way more often. At the time of posting this, while you can buy it for £9.99 in HD through Amazon, it’s only a mere £4.49 to rent it in HD. I think those with children are going to want to watch this a few times, and they’ll see new things each time.
Running time: 75 minutes
Studio: Together Films
Released: March 20th 2017
Directors: Josh Appignanesi and Devorah Baum
Producers: Josh Appignanesi and Devorah Baum
Writers: Josh Appignanesi and Devorah Baum
Executive Producer: David Baddiel
Cast: (as themselves)