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USA, 2008, 73 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Documentary, Drama, Family Issues
Program: Documentary FilmsLanguage: English
DIRECTOR: Morgan Dews
Producer: Morgan Dews, (executive) Alison Palmer BourkeEditor: Morgan DewsScreenwriter: Morgan Dews
Filmmaker Morgan Dews’s feature debut is a startlingly intimate, deeply unsettling documentary about his grandparents’ turbulent marriage and its devastating impact on their children. Combining two original sources—old 8mm home movies found in a suitcase and a cache of audio tapes recorded at the behest of psychiatrists—Dews issues a powerful critique of the American family in the supposedly blissful era of suburban living even as he implicates the medical community in its dysfunction.
A seemingly free-thinking couple in an open marriage, Allis and Charley prove profoundly unhappy together in their two-story in Connecticut in the 1960s. As they turn to therapists for help, things only get worse. Charley is a hopeless, often abusive alcoholic, Allis a disconsolate wife and resentful if dutiful homemaker. Though they love their four children, the family lives in utter domestic chaos.
After Allis’ death in 2001, the reel-to-reel journals she had saved for posterity were discovered in a box marked: “Must Read After My Death.” She clearly wanted her descendants to know the truth—or her version thereof. For Dews, who holds a degree in history from Rutgers, it was a call to action. “I realized that I was going to tell the story that was in those boxes,” he has said. “I wanted to preserve that sense of discovery I felt…because it gets right to the heart and contradictions of things.”
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