51 Birch Street

Rated NR

Documentarian and wedding videographer Doug Block never thought he’d make a movie about his parents, who seemed far too ordinary to merit it. But then his mother died, and he began to read her diaries; his father almost immediately got remarried to his secretary, and Doug became suspicious. Was there something more to his parents, some dark secrets that haunted their marriage? The answer is yes, but they’re very ordinary secrets of very ordinary people. Maybe what 51 Birch Street shows is that there are no ordinary people: Even a couple with 2.4 children who lived in the suburbs and were married for 50 years can never truly be said to be typical. The film unwinds as Block finds out that his mother was filled with secret passions, and he suspects that his father had an affair. I think that this film would be totally fascinating if you were Doug Block, but as an outsider, it’s a little hard to take such interest in someone else’s family. Also, Block uses the most standard documentary music, which diminishes the force of the story by making it seem even more commonplace than it actually is. Still, there’s something compelling about simply displaying the inner lives of terribly private people.

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