51 Birch Street

51 Birch Street


Reviewed by: Susanna Krawczyk

When Doug Block filmed his parents at various family gatherings and in interviews at home he had no real purpose in mind. But, as he tells us at the film’s opening, when his mother died suddenly and unexpectedly of pneumonia he was very glad he had. Very soon after Mina Block’s death her husband Mike decided to get married again, this time to a woman named Kitty who had been his secretary 35 years previously. Shocked by this, and suspicious that his father had been having an affair with Kitty for years, Doug decided to make a film.

It’s been proved often that it is very difficult to truly know a person, and this film shows that goes doubly for your parents. The discovery of Mina’s diaries spanning most of her adult life throws up some shocking revelations, and very soon it becomes apparent that her marriage was not as happy as it outwardly appeared to be. When you try to get at the full picture, ideas about wronged and guilty parties become far less useful and blame is usually found on both sides of the equation.

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Also documented is Doug Block’s lack of ability to connect with his father and the process by which learning about his mother in fact helps him to forge that missing bond. It turns out that Mike knew a lot more about his wife’s feelings and state of mind than he would ever let on, and it is yet another example of the danger of believing we know more than others.

This is a most interesting film, examining attitudes to love and marriage and how they’ve changed since the days when Doug Block’s parents got married.

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2006
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51 Birch Street packshot
A film-maker investigates the secrets behind his parents' marriage.
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Director: Doug Block

Writer: Doug Block, Amy Seplin

Year: 2005

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: US


EIFF 2006

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