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51 Birch Street

  NR Closed Captioning

Doug Block

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About the Movie

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.

Rotten Tomatoes Movie Reviews


  • Reviews Counted: 37
  • Fresh: 36
  • Rotten: 1
  • Average Rating: 7.9/10

Top Critics' Reviews

Fresh: In 51 Birch Street, a moving and fascinating documentary, Doug Block investigates the lingering, buried frustration in his parents otherwise ordinary lives. – A.O. Scott, New York Times, Jul 16, 2008

Fresh: A warm and honest portrait of a marriage at its most mysterious, and ordinary. – Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly, Jul 7, 2010

Fresh: Through haunting home movies, Mina's diaries and interviews with Mike, a raw, riveting portrait emerges of what a child sees in his parents' relationship and what lies beneath. – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone, Nov 24, 2006

Fresh: A tonal triumph of true-life storytelling told with equal measures of tension and redemption. – Eddie Cockrell, Variety, Jul 7, 2010

Read More About This Movie On Rotten Tomatoes

Customer Reviews

Excellent Production Well worth Watching

This should have been a 3 hour epic. Left you wanting to know more. Please do a part 2 to this with more detail.

Fine Documentary

Lovely intimate portrait of what is usually private. Provides insight into this family and so many others, as well as a picture of the times. Great interviews and great storytelling. A couple shortfalls for me though, overall too long. And there was so much great source material from Mom's journals, more of it should have been directly read or shared instead of all paraphrased. A very brave and revealing effort on the part of Doug Block.

Good Documentary About A Jerk

*SPOILER ALERT* I enjoyed this documentary the way I sometimes press on a toothache, hoping to release the pain. Doug Block did an exceptional job of easing his taciturn jerk of a father into a corner comfortable enough for him finally to admit that he did not love his wife of many years. Nor did this unexpressive dolt of a father miss his wife after she died. The man's wife was too much of a woman for her husband. She was introspective, beautiful and highly intelligent. She wanted -- and deserved -- much more than her stereotypical 1950s, I bring home the bacon husband wanted or expected to provide. Again, I gave 4 stars to the film because it's well done. But throughout this documentary I wished I could pop this irresponsible, insensitive and selfish husband in the nose.

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