by Nick L’Barrow
Documenting the trials, tribulations, high and lows of the Waller family over the course of 20 years, documentary Meet the Wallers is an intimate look inside the marriage of Mark and Nicole Waller.
In 2001, the Wallers are living in Lennox Head, NSW with their 2 young daughters, Jasmine and Emily. Mark is an artist, capturing the beautiful seascapes that surround them, yet struggles to consistently provide for his financially through his passion as he finds it difficult to get his work shown and sold in galleries. By his side, Nicole goes through a daily battle of wanting to support her husband’s dreams wholeheartedly while also logistically running the family with her husband, rather than for her husband.
Director Jim Stevens is not afraid to display the raw moments that the Waller family go through as their story goes through peaks and valleys of their life. Candid conversations and moments shared between Mark and Nicole on screen feel voyeuristic in a way that feels like you shouldn’t be seeing this private part of their relationship. But on the opposite hand, the relatability to their plights is a way to emotionally connect to their story. Ranging from sympathy to frustration, it’s impossible not to understand at least one aspect of the Waller family’s life.
Mark is a dreamer, but he is equally determined. His ambition serves as external motivation to pursue the things that you are passionate about, even when Mark is sometimes ignorant to how his tunnel vision can affect the people around him, especially his wife Nicole. Nicole’s story is a fantastic counter point which displays the consequences of being unable to properly balance marriage/family life, and the life of someone completely dedicated to their art. Constantly at battle with her loyalty to Mark’s dream and the desires she has for her own life, there’s moments where we feel bad for the position Nicole is in (and the toll this all takes on her mental health), but there is undoubtedly a sense of unbridled love between the two that drives them forward.
Taking almost 8 years for Mark’s brand and business to gain momentum, Meet the Wallers turns from a semi-motivational story of doing whatever it takes to find success (and the repercussions of this), to an incredible harrowing tale of how life can take a horrific turn, and how we as humans respond to the adversity. After a shock diagnosis, the Waller’s family life is turned upside down. The relationship between Mark and Nicole (and now their teenage daughters, who are more affected by the family dynamic) is tested in a way they never expected and seeing the bond that grows as Mark goes through a cerebral change, and Nicole manages with this new aspect of their live, is life affirming in a way that makes the audience appreciate the lives and dreams that we have.
Meet the Wallers is a candid and life affirming story that strips back the lives of the Waller family in a way that feels authentic. Being able to relate to the emotional journey that Mark and Nicole go on, both together and separately, will give audiences something to root for throughout this documentary, and will hopefully open their eyes to the opposing aspects of their own stories.
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