Ellen (ennienyc) wrote,

51 Birch Street

My childhood address in Great Neck was 15 Birch Street. When the documentary "51 Birch Street" started popping up in film festivals, I was intrigued. When I found out this address is not only similar but 2 towns away in Port Washington, I was even more intrigued. When I found out the filmmaker Doug Block is my age and Jewish, and the movie is about his parents and family, I really needed to see it.

IFP was offering a screening Wednesday so I made a reservation. The
movie did not disappoint. I KNOW these people. They could be my aunts, uncles and cousins. I KNOW this place. The house was a split-level something like our first house on Rose Avenue.

The story was not my family's story (as far as I know, anyway). We see his mother Mina in home movies, spry and articulate, and then learn she died suddenly of pneumonia, leaving his father alone after 54 years of marriage. But wait, dad Mike rebounded with amazing speed, marrying his former secretary a few months later. What's going on here?

As Mike prepares to move to Florida and the grown children return to help pack up the home the family has owned since it was built in 1951, they discover boxes of diaries where Mina detailed her life. With some trepidation, Doug reads pages and pages of revelations, and finds everything was not what it seemed. There was despair, psychoanalysis, affairs. He asks his father difficult questions and gets answers we're not sure whether to believe.

The filmmaker did a Q&A afterward. He said his father has seen the movie 10 times. The obvious question is what would his mother think about all this being revealed not only to the family but to the world? His mother's friend ponders the question onscreen and concludes she'd be "delighted."

Thought-provoking evening. And the credits show our beloved Anne was their PR person.

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