Although the chronology of Til Death Us Do Part is not quite as straightforward as it first seems, the film begins with two sequences of apparent marital bliss in the present that also offer glimpses of the future.
In the first, as the Best Man (Cam Gigandet, in hilarious form), seated in a pew, struggles to pen some observations on love and then joins his six fellow Groomsmen (D.Y. Sao, Neb Chupin, Sam Lee Herring, Orlando Jones, Alan Silva, Pancho Moler) and a similar number of Bridesmaids in their places at the front of the church, the Bride (Natalie Burn) is in a dressing room being readied for the ceremony. This sequence, from its whimsical music, to the absurd scribblings and erasures in the Best Man’s speech, to the focus on the perfection of the Bride’s dress, hair and makeup, suggests that we are watching a rom com – and it ends with the Bride pausing, on her way into the church, at the sight of a woman holding a baby. This motherhood is what the Bride would like for herself too.
In the second sequence, the Bride is on a Puerto Rican beach where she is honeymooning with the Groom (Ser’Darius Blain). As the cavorting couple discusses the risk involved in going public with their romance against the rules of their employers at ‘the University’, they head to a bar for a drink, where they meet an older couple (Jason Patric, Nicole Arlyn), who have managed to maintain their marital relationship through thick and thin over 20 long years. Again, this is a vivid model of what the Bride wants: a love with the legs to last.
In fact the Bride’s future looks somewhat less rosy. For although these two sequences will subsequently be fleshed out in flashbacks, the principal narrative of Til Death Do Us Part takes place after both of them, and exposes the sham of their sweet, sunny allure. For as the Bride, still in her wedding dress, flees to a remote house, and finds herself beleaguered by the six tuxedoed Groomsmen who are on orders to keep her there until the Groom, left at the altar, arrives to work things out, the dream of a picture-perfect marriage has become a nightmare. And as the Best Man’s awkward charm turns out to mask a callous psychopathy, and as his men grow ever more aggressive, the Bride will reveal her own highly honed skills at fleeing, fighting and fucking people up.
Written by Chad Law and Shane Dax Taylor, Timothy Woodward Jr.’s feature is set in a world of pure genre – think Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill diptych (featuring its own Bride) exchanging vows with Chad Stahelski’s John Wick films. Here, one woman’s pursuit of her dreams – and of independence – in a men’s world is translated into the coded languages of cinema, so that the Bride’s feminist struggle for liberation expresses itself in martial arts and toolshed massacres.
As the title of Til Death Do Us Part reminds the viewer, death has always been inscribed into the wedding rite as a signifier of marriage’s only proper end. Woodward Jr.’s film just literalises and expedites this passage from altar to grave, rewriting the principle of lifelong wedded bliss into, as one character puts it, “Nobody gets out alive.” Here the Bride’s white dress will soon be drenched not, as patriarchal tradition demands, in the blood of her defloration, but in the splatter of her male oppressors, former friends now very much marked as enemies.
As the work-life balance proves a grave challenge to a relationship, as sappy romance fast gives way to survivalist cat-and-mouse and kickass action, and as the Bride consummates her contract with a vengeance, the results are thrilling, funny and surreally violent.
strap: Timothy Woodward Jr.’s action-packed survival thriller shows a marriage’s anti-romantic honeymoon period
© Anton Bitel