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51 Birch Street

  Unrated Closed Captioning

Doug Block

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About the Film

Filmmaker Doug Block had every reason to believe his parent's 54-year marriage was a good one. So he isn't prepared when, just a few months after his mother's unexpected death, his 83-year old father, Mike, phones to announce that he's moving to Florida to live with 'Kitty', his secretary from 40 years before. Always close to his mother and equally distant from his father, he's stunned and suspicious. When Mike and Kitty marry and sell the longtime family home, Doug returns to suburban Long Island with camera in hand for one last visit. And there, among the lifetime of memories being packed away forever, he discovers 3 large boxes filled with his mom's daily diaries going back well over 35 years. Realizing he has only a few short weeks before the movers come and his dad will be gone for good, the veteran documentarian sticks around, determined to investigate the mystery of his parents' marriage. Through increasingly candid conversations with family members and friends, and constantly surprising diary revelations, Doug finally comes to peace with two parents who are far more complex and troubled than he ever imagined. Both unexpectedly funny and heartbreaking, 51 Birch Street is the first-person account of Block's unpredictable journey through a whirlwind of dramatic life-changing events: the death of his mother, the uncovering of decades of family secrets, and the ensuing reconciliation with his father. What begins as his own intimate, autobiographical story, soon evolves into a broader meditation on the universal themes of love, marriage, fidelity and the mystery of family. 51 Birch Street spans 60 years and 3 generations, and weaves together hundreds of faded snapshots, 8mm home movies and two decades of verité footage. The result is a timeless tale of what can happen when our most fundamental assumptions about family are suddenly called into question.

Customer Reviews

Thought Provoking *Contains Spoilers*

I started watching the film and wondered "What sort of man marries someone else when his wife is barely cold in the ground?"

By the end my heart was a little sadder and my soul much wiser.

It was a fantastic, and beautifully candid, piece of film making.

I really hope that by the end Doug realised (and I hope feels) that his father, Mike, really did/does love him, and was very proud of him.

The thought this has left me with is - At what point do you call your failing relationship quits?

Mike and Mina's relationship appeared to be incredibly complex with Mina's affairs of the heart, and the mind, being a hugely impactive factor on the overall tone of the relationship.

From it outside looking in it appeared that Mike spent 54 years doing what was right by his wife and his family regardless of his own feelings.

It proves that you cannot judge without the facts, and in fact should not judge at all.

A Biopsy of a Marriage (5 out of 5 stars, it won't let me rate it above)

A breath taking and fascinating movie about marriage. I started out wanting to watch just the first 15 min and then to go back to studying but was sucked right into watching it from beginning to end. From the trailer it's easy to have a preconceived notion that the the marriage of the directors parents was difficult due to the misgivings and faults of his father. An assumption that reflecting back on the times; the post world war 2 era, is very plausible. Women struggled to be the perfect wives, mothers, caretakers , cleaners by day and rushed to the door to meet their husbands with the yes dear smile and a martini. Although the lack of female empowerment didn't help its the complexity of feelings and thoughts of both the father and mother and their inability to communicate and connect to each other that makes this all the more sad and leaves the viewer a bit anxious if not uncertain about their own image of marriage. It also injects a sudden sharp realisation into our heart that marriage is uncertain, prone to fail at any time and all we can do is enjoy the ride and hope for the best.

This is so much more than a documentary!

I will struggle to put into words how much this film means to me. It’s a rare gem…truth about life and love and family captured on camera. I’m deeply grateful to the film maker for sharing this deeply personal story. It’s compelling, utterly moving…and really needs to be seen.

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