Review: Doris (2018)


Doris (2018)

Directed by: Albert Jan van Rees | 89 minutes | comedy, drama | Actors: Tjitske Reidinga, Guy Clemens, Tarik Moree, Monique van de Ven, Gijs Scholten van Aschat, Roos Ouwehand, Bracha van Doesburgh, Hendrikje Nieuwerf, Peter Blok, John Kinory, Leonoor Koster

Things are not going well for Doris Dorenbos (Tjitske Reidinga). After the divorce from her ex-husband Walter (Gijs Scholten van Aschat), she was forced to move with her two adolescent children Willem (Tarik Moree) and Sien (Hendrikje Nieuwerf) to a ground floor apartment in the Amsterdam district of De Baarsjes. She has to look for work there, but when you are almost 45 that is not easy. And her ex also rubs it in nicely that she is a total failure – or ‘a bad case’, as Doris calls it. There is also a glimmer of hope, in the person of Tim (Guy Clemens), who has been her best friend for many years and is always there for her. But lately there’s a new obstacle in Doris’s life; she has real-life dreams of hopping around in Victorian England, yearning for a long-suffering nobleman who looks a lot like Tim. Would her subconscious try to tell her she’s in love with her best friend? And what should she do with those feelings? Apparently it is, because acting normal to Tim is suddenly no longer an option and as soon as he starts talking about his charming colleague (Bracha van Doesburgh), she spontaneously turns green with envy.

The television series ‘Doris’, which was shown on Net5 in 2013, had only eight episodes. The fact that the plug was pulled prematurely had everything to do with the fact that the channel changed management and a different course was therefore taken. Plans for a film were shelved for a long time, but five years later this one – simply called ‘Doris’ (2018) – is finally here. Like the series, the screenplay was also written by Roos Ouwehand, who also plays the role of Doris’ sister Sarah. Many actors from the series also make an appearance in the film; only Jacob Derwig, who played Tim in the series, dropped out but Guy Clemens is a great replacement. Director Esmé Lammers was replaced for unclear reasons by Albert Jan van Rees, who has directed esteemed TV series such as ‘Klem’ and ‘Overspel’ on his resume. ‘Doris’ revolves around the experiences of a clumsy, insecure and neurotic middle-aged woman and is therefore strongly reminiscent of the ‘Bridget Jones’ series and – closer to home – ‘Soof’ (2013), although ‘Doris’ lacks the humor that characterized those films and made them so strong. Not that there are no jokes, but the overtone here is much more melancholic and sober. Doris is terrified that by declaring her love to Tim, she has lost her best friend and, in her own words, the only thing in her life that she has put in order. In the Netherlands there will be few actresses who can better radiate total sadness and sheer despair than Reidinga, who wanders around with her soul under her arm for three quarters of the film. If she also reluctantly enters the labor market, then the gate is closed and she wanders through the pouring rain, fumbling with a postman’s cart, through the streets of Amsterdam, to argue with a small child for a beaded bracelet.

Anyone who has ever fallen in love with their best friend understands her hesitation. In that sense ‘Doris’ is very recognizable. However, the film puts a lot of emphasis on scenes where the protagonist clumsily struggles through life, revels in self-pity or denounces the present day full of Instagram happiness and idealized lives. Even if she really wanted to tell Tim how she feels about him, she wouldn’t even get around to it. Reidinga does not really manage to drag the viewer into the story; you want to find her likable, but that is still quite difficult. Just as the other characters are too stereotypical (the adolescent son and his WiFi), colorless or marginal (Scholten van Aschat, Van de Ven) to play any significant role. The only one who gets the space to convince is Guy Clemens as the loyal Tim, who has angelic patience, even though the chemistry with Reidinga is hard to find. Given the enthusiasm for Dutch romantic comedies, ‘Doris’ will attract enough viewers to the cinemas, but if we are very honest, the film disappoints. A romkom in which humor has been exchanged for sadness and few sparks fly between the protagonists, that is probably not the way the makers intended.

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