51 Birch Street

  • Review Date: September 9, 2007
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2006
  • Running Time: 88 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Absorbing docu on family secrets. See with teens.
  • Review Date: September 9, 2007
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2006
  • Running Time: 88 minutes

Age(i)

2
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17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages
Not applicable
Violence
Not applicable
Sex

Infidelity is discussed at length, as well as Doug's mother's obsession with her therapist -- many highlighted journal entries discuss longing and unfulfillment. A mention of partner swapping and "handsies" at a drive-in.

Language
Not applicable
Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Doug's mother discusses smoking pot while visiting her child at college.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this documentary is about the filmmaker Doug's parents. His mother dies suddenly and Doug and his two sisters -- adults over 40 -- talk frankly about how they're handling the loss and what they think of their father remarrying three months after her death. Doug reads his mother's diaries and learns about her near-constant unhappiness in the marriage and obsession with her therapist. The possibility of infidelity on both sides is discussed at length. Doug's mother admits to smoking pot while visiting one child at college. There's also a mention of the sexual revolution and what some suburban couples were doing at the time (exchanges, etc.).

Parents say

Kids say

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What's the story?

When filmmaker Doug Block's mother dies suddenly, his 83-year-old father remarries three months later, and 30 years of his mother's daily diaries are left to him. Block makes the decision to go where he'd never allowed his camera to go before.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

This is a very difficult and rewarding personal journey thoughtful viewers will relish. When Doug is offered 30 years of his mother's daily diaries, he debates about whether or not to read them, and finally does. The entries reveal that she feels overwhelmed and unhappy as a '50s housewife to the typical strong-and-silent type husband. She eventually goes to psychotherapy and falls hard for her therapist; she obsesses both about her therapist and her self-discovery process. She writes intense, introspective poetry.

Interspersed with these revelatory diary entries are interviews with Doug's siblings, recalling how "she wasn't a warm mother" and that poetry they read in the past was their only clue about her richer inner life. They also discuss never spending alone time with their stoic father growing up, and wonder over the "new improved dad" they're seeing now. Doug also talks to his mother's best friend, his mother's brother, and a rabbi. In the process he pieces together a portrait of a difficult marriage of two people who meant well and he cautiously tries to forge a better relationship with his father before he packs up and moves to Florida.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about quite a bit in this movie. Parents can talk with teens about how this documentary looks at marriage and commitment -- in a way you never see portrayed in films and on TV. (It may serve as an antidote to some shows like MTV's Engaged and Underage.) They can also talk about how Doug's relationship with his father developed through the course of the documentary -- how is it stronger now? If your parents had diaries, would you read them if you could? Do you think Doug made the right decision?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 18, 2006
DVD release date:August 14, 2007
Cast:Doug Block
Director:Doug Block
Studio:Image Entertainment
Genre:Documentary
Run time:88 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

This review of 51 Birch Street was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written byMovieLover4Lyfe May 26, 2010
AGE
13
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Watch this with your teenagers!

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