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Written by: Morgan Dews
Directed by: Morgan Dews
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 73
Date: 11/01/2007

Must Read After My Death (2009)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Family Despair

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Must Read After My Death opens today on one screen in New York, though the rest of the world can see it as well, by logging onto Gigantic Digital Cinema and buying a "ticket" for $2.99. It's a heart-rending documentary, inescapably powerful and profound. It reminded me of the 2006 film 51 Birch Street, but so much more revealing; it's a bit like a Douglas Sirk melodrama on acid. In 2001, filmmaker Morgan Dews came into a treasure chest of material left behind by his grandmother, Allis, marked "must read upon my death." In the package were hours of films, audio recordings, letters and other writings and photos. It detailed the true story behind a marriage that may have looked perfect on the surface, but was rife with the torments of the damned. Allis and her husband Charley started making the audio recordings as a way of speaking to one another while he was away on business trips, working in Australia in the 1960s. Allis continued to make the tapes as confessionals as her life grew more and more complicated and depressing; Charley cheated on her and was obsessed with cleanliness (both covering up his massive inferiority complex), to the point that his children found him tyrannical. One of the four children was admitted to an institution, and the others had serious troubles of their own. Dews assembles all this found material -- and nothing else -- into his searing final product, with the hyper-intelligent Allis stuck in a world that doesn't understand her (and dealing with what sounds like inept psychologists). It's not an easy film to watch, but once you start, you'll be hooked -- and haunted -- for real. (Note: the film contains subtitles, as the audio quality on the old tapes is not always clear.)

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