A breezy, sweet film that is kind of hard to categorize, “Ice Saints” is a refreshing look at a couple on the verge of wedding.
The best description I can come up with for “Saints” is “self-portrait,” as filmmakers Ryan Balas and Deirdre Herlihy more or less turn on cameras and record their lives leading up to their wedding. They discuss their love for each other and their thoughts and feelings as they get to their wedding day.
It’s as simple as that. It would be easy for a film of that nature to turn trite and boring, but “Saints” has an earnestness that reflects the love of its leads.
To their credit, the couple avoids wasting time trying to wax poetic about the institution of marriage. There are no soliloquies about the sanctity of love or manufactured setups where their love is tested. A couple who had been together eight years, and living together for at least a good portion of that time, they aren’t embarking on some great journey; they’re just taking the next step in life.
Both Balas and Herlihy are relatively young, and part of the beauty of this film is that they allow their age to be on display. They talk about the prospect of children and needle each other gently about whether there is a potentially game-changing argument to be had down the road.
But mostly Herlihy and Balas sit around talking casually, whether they’re post-coitally gulping beverages, bickering about the appropriateness of sitting on the dining room furniture naked, or debating things like whether she should take his name and which anniversary they should celebrate.
And speaking of nudity, it is copiously and casually on display throughout, most of which is a demonstration both of the stage of their relationship and as a reflection of how even a couple who have been together for years are at times insecure about their bodies.
It’s beautifully shot; at a post-screening Q&A, Balas called Terence Malick an influence, and his use of voiceover and quiet, lingering shots of Herlihy confirm that and make his feelings for her more than clear. The duo used a variety of low-end cameras, including DSLRs, iPhone cameras, even VHS and Super 8 recorders.
“Ice Saints” isn’t a profound film; indeed, it’s a movie that asks a whole heck of a lot more questions than it answers. But it’s a beautiful, sometimes moving portrait, likely the best-shot home video you’ll ever see, and I mean that only as a compliment. It’s a wonderful portrait of two people who clearly love each other as they move through their life together.