Louis Theroux’s most recent documentary, Drinking to Oblivion, shows Louis in a slightly different light. He’s known for his own particular style of documentary interview technique, where his face cracks a kind of smirk or appears with a sort of nonchalant look on it as he asks questions that seem to be designed to make the viewer squirm. Thinking of the word that best captures Louis’ on-camera persona from the recent past must be… disingenuous. Disingenuous is perhaps how Louis’ old style of interviewing could be seen – snide seems a tad harsh a description, and if you look and listen closely to DtO, where Louis is very well behaved, on the whole, there is still a flash of the old style in there. As Louis visits Peter and his partner at their new rented lodgings, and as Peter explains how he is feeling better after being diagnosed and treated for mental health issues, Louis slips into the conversation, rather uncomfortably, that Peter’s partner was considering leaving him at the height of his last bout of alcohol dependency – “did you know that?” Louis asks Peter. Fortunately, Peter and his partner do seem to have discussed the issue, but had they not, what would such a question have added to the programme? In what way would Peter’s newfound alcohol-free calmness have been affected by such a potential curve ball?
For much of the rest of the programme Louis is quite tactile with his subjects, and even displays signs of genuine affection towards those he meets, Peter included, but he also falls into a habit that perhaps many members of the public would also fall into when faced with such an uncomfortable position of watching seemingly “together” and intelligent people fall into the trap of alcohol dependency. The habit, here, is of asking the same questions repeatedly: “Are you okay?” “How are you feeling?” This documentary, more than any of Louis’ others that come to mind, shows Louis at a loss for words – how else would you describe the tactic of asking the same banal questions to people who are clearly neither okay, nor feeling terribly well. And perhaps the best example of Louis being at a loss for words is when Aurelie asks him a question about what he thinks about her and her plight. Fair play to Louis for keeping those bits in the documentary and for not having them edited out. Let’s hope the programme goes some way to shedding light on what is a massive problem with Britain’s favourite drug. To back up this statement, here’s a statistic courtesy of Huffpost Lifestyle UK: The NHS estimates that around 9% of adult men in the UK and 4% of UK adult women show signs of alcohol dependence. Truly shocking.