I knew when I laughed three times in the first five minutes, that I’d enjoy the hell out of this film. That I’ve had a big beard myself for almost ten years is neither here nor there (although if you’re like my grandmother-in-law, who apparently hated them, this might not be the film for you).
The people interviewed in “Men With Beards” are just normal men from the locality of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, talking about their lives. They just seem like good people, happy they could get some excellent face-hair growth and happy to share their stories; plus, there’s archive footage of the history of beards, old shaving adverts, weird old clips edited for laughs, some fairly serious discussion about self-expression, plus a build up to the World Beard & Moustache Championships.
In a way, it’s weirdly fetishistic. Bear with me! Much like adult entertainment where the people involved are just bodies, and you often don’t see the faces, there are a lot of shots in this film where all you see is the beard. Basically, if you have a thing for beards and don’t want any of that boring eyes or bodies nonsense, then this could be the film for you.
For me, the discussion about eating was the truest. Although I try my hardest to keep my beard clean, I’ll occasionally find a toast crumb or something in there; so to hear the woes of my similarly hirsute brethren was brilliant. And I got annoyed at the guys with dark hair, because my beard’s going grey at the chin.
The documentarians picked some really really good subjects for this. The people are smart, self-deprecating, and it’s just fun to spend some time with them – perhaps it helps that they’re stereotypically polite, friendly Canadians? Ah, who knows? Their attitude to being shouted at on the street is just great, too.
We have apparently reached what’s known as “Peak Beard” in society, where so many men have them that it’s completely normalised, or over-normalised. Even though I’m a long-term beard-haver, and I’m delighted that they’re out there and there’s stuff like “lumbersexuals”, in a sense, a documentary about beards in 2013 is like a documentary about what it’s like to own a TV in 1958, in that so many people have one that the experience isn’t particularly unique or noteworthy.
But that’s not what this film is about! It’s a celebration, and an interesting and informative 80 minutes spent in the company of a group of decent people. Not the most essential documentary of all time, that’s for sure, but a heck of a lot of fun.
Rating: thumbs up