DEW THE RIGHT THING

Written by admin on . Posted in Arts & Film, Film.


A drunk, tomcatting father, an unfulfilled, restless mother and four children who pay the price. The family in filmmaker Morgan Dews’ Must Read After My Death could have been just another unhappy family locked away inside their Hartford, Conn. colonial. Except that Dews’ grandmother Allis channeled her frustration and abject happiness into the kind of obsessive documentation that would have done Richard Nixon proud. 

Some families bequeath photo albums to the next generation, but Allis, who died in 2001 and was the architect of her family’s history throughout the 1950s and ’60s, bequeathed hours and hours of voice recordings and hundreds of 8mm home movies to her grandson Morgan Dews. He clearly saw the psychological mother lode locked inside this archeology of family. And so he did what any 21st-century documentarian would: He made a family memoir. Must Read After My Death is awash in heartbreak and tragedy of the most quotidian kind, interweaving those audio and home movie artifacts to show the slow dissolution of a marriage and the toxic effect of Allis and her husband Charley’s unhappiness on their children Chuck, Bruce, Douglas and Anne. At the story’s center is Aliss, a worldly nonconformist whose marriage to businessman Charley is narrated in excruciating, often skin-crawling detail. Saccharine affection coexists with the creepy dynamics of their open marriage in the dictaphone tapes that they send back and forth from Charley’s frequent extended work trips to Australia. Upon Charley’s return and the family’s move to Hartford, the veneer of joviality begins to peel away. Allis records it all: shrieking fights, dank sexual confessions, suicidal self-doubt. The saddest element of Must Read is the sense that the children are hostage to their parents’ dysfunction. A mysterious Dr. Lenn emerges and counsels Allis to let her husband make the decisions in the family, commits one of their sons to a mental institution and recommends Allis get on with the vital business of planning dinner parties. As much as it is a peek behind the closed doors of a marriage, Must Read After My Death is a grotesque glimpse into how a medley of therapists operating from their own prejudices did more to hinder than help this unhappy family.

Memoir films have run the gamut, from brutal scab-picking in Tarnation to fraternal hagiography in My Architect  and queasy revelation in Capturing the Friedmans. Must Read After My Death combines elements of all of those in its raw exegesis of a mother whose nascent feminist consciousness is smothered by her husband and by a raft of therapists who instill in her the party line of the ’60s: that her children have been ruined and that it’s her fault.

In what becomes the disconcerting contrapuntal rhythm of the film, rage and hopelessness are set against the banality of home movies: the children at the zoo, a car stuck in snow, dinner parties and picnics. At times the images are ripe with subtext and indicative of the family’s woes. But more often there is an aching melancholy and pathos at the truth conveyed in those banal and seemingly happy home movies, that every family is a kind of mirage: one vision sold to the outside world and another hidden away.

Must Read After My Death
Directed by Morgan Dews
At Quad Cinemas and via Gigantic Digital at www.giganticdigital.com
Running Time: 73 min.

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Dew the Right Thing

Written by Felicia Feaster on . Posted in Arts & Film, Posts.


 

Must Read After My Death

Directed by Morgan Dews

at Quad Cinemas and via Gigantic Digital at www.giganticdigital.com

Running Time: 73 min.

A drunk, Tomcatting father, an
unfulfilled, restless mother and four
children who pay the price.The family
in filmmaker Morgan Dews’ Must Read
After My Death could have been just another
unhappy family locked away inside
their Hartford, Conn. colonial. Except that
Dews’ grandmother Allis channeled her
frustration and abject happiness into the
kind of obsessive documentation that would
have done Richard Nixon proud.

Some families bequeath photo albums to
the next generation, but Allis, who died in
2001 and was the architect of her family’s
history throughout the 1950s and ’60s, bequeathed
hours and hours of voice recordings
and hundreds of 8mm home movies to
her grandson Morgan Dews. He clearly saw
the psychological mother lode locked inside
this archeology of family. And so he did
what any 21st-century documentarian
would: He made a family memoir.

Must
Read After My Death is awash in heartbreak
and tragedy of the most quotidian kind, interweaving
those audio and home movie artifacts
to show the slow dissolution of a
marriage and the toxic effect of Allis and her
husband Charley’s unhappiness on their
children Chuck, Bruce, Douglas and Anne.
At the story’s center is Aliss, a worldly nonconformist
whose marriage to businessman
Charley is narrated in excruciating, often
skin-crawling detail. Saccharine affection
coexists with the creepy dynamics of their
open marriage in the dictaphone tapes that
they send back and forth from Charley’s frequent
extended work trips to Australia.
Upon Charley’s return and the family’s
move to Hartford, the veneer of joviality begins
to peel away. Allis records it all: shrieking
fights, dank sexual confessions, suicidal
self-doubt. The saddest element of Must
Read is the sense that the children are
hostage to their parents’ dysfunction.

A
mysterious Dr. Lenn emerges and counsels
Allis to let her husband make the decisions
in the family, commits one of their sons to a
mental institution and recommends Allis get
on with the vital business of planning dinner
parties. As much as it is a peek behind the
closed doors of a marriage, Must Read After
My Death is a grotesque glimpse into how a
medley of therapists operating from their
own prejudices did more to hinder than
help this unhappy family.

Memoir films have run the gamut, from
brutal scab-picking in Tarnation to fraternal
hagiography in My Architect and queasy
revelation in Capturing the Friedmans. Must
Read After My Death combines elements of
all of those in its raw exegesis of a mother
whose nascent feminist consciousness is
smothered by her husband and by a raft of
therapists who instill in her the party line of
the ’60s: that her children have been ruined
and that it’s her fault.

In what becomes the disconcerting contrapuntal
rhythm of the film, rage and hopelessness
are set against the banality of home
movies: the children at the zoo, a car stuck
in snow, dinner parties and picnics. At times
the images are ripe with subtext and indicative
of the family’s woes. But more often
there is an aching melancholy and pathos at
the truth conveyed in those banal and seemingly
happy home movies, that every family
is a kind of mirage: one vision sold to the
outside world and another hidden away.

..