It almost seems the first person documentary has become redundant. With every person putting seemingly every second of their lives on social media, the format almost seem unnecessary. Judith Helfand’s Love & Stuff proves that the genre can still tell engaging stories. The film follows the documentarian as she enters a new chapter in her life. As she watches her mother’s last moments, she prepares to become a new mother.
Love & Stuff does a great job of showing the bond between Helfand and her mother. The opening moments show various interactions between the two. This continues throughout the movie. The two have frank and funny conversations that bring levity to film’s darker moments. Helfand’s mother is a constant reminder of how difficult it can be to move on in life.
By definition, a documentary this personal will be self indulgent. Love & Stuff never hides that this is about Helfand and what direction her life is headed in. This sometimes works to the film’s detriment. The story oddly goes all over the place despite it mainly being about one person. Undoubtedly, this is one of the most frustrating aspects of the film.
Hefland’s relationship with her family is fun to watch. It goes beyond the closeness with her mother, though these moments are the highlights. There are also scenes with her brothers that are entertaining. Hefland can be a very personable character. Plus, watching her relationship with her new daughter grow over the years is enough to make some people cheer.
Others will not be as enamored by Helfand. She is the subject of the documentary. It makes sense she will be the focus. Many times, it comes off as less of an intimate diary and more of a heroic biography, however. Her seemingly reluctance to exercise despite the health risks and an attitude that some will construed as “woe is me” will turn some off.
Love & Stuff begins strongly. There is an obvious bond between director Judith Helfand and her mother that can carry a documentary. As things progress, the film becomes a frustrating watch. It becomes a story that moves away from overcoming struggle. What Helfand accomplishes is inspiring to an extent, but it is also a story of reliance over resilience.