Must Read After My Death

In 2001, when filmmaker Morgan Dews's grandmother passed away, he discovered hours and hours of secret audio recordings that she and his grandfather had made during the 1960s, revealing startling facts about their relationship and the problems they were having with their four children, whom they had rather late in life. Dews decided to marry this audio to benign images from the dozens of reels of 8mm film the family had shot throughout the '50s and '60s, and thus we have Must Read After My Death.

Fans of found footage will enjoy the voyeuristic aspect of listening to the drama unfolding within this seemingly placid Connecticut family. But Dews seems to believe that it's enough to simply assemble the audio chronologically while displaying the film footage randomly; as a result, his film lacks both narrative and visual structure. The images do not underscore or even act as a counterpoint to what we're hearing. Without any context or reflection that would make this story relevant to those outside of the Dews family, Must Read After My Death is more of an art piece – the sort of thing you'd find playing on a loop in a gallery or museum. Those seeking an experience on par with the expertly crafted Capturing the Friedmans will be disappointed. Even the one true tragedy that afflicts this family happens shortly before film's end, and as there is little footage to suggest how the family actually dealt with it, it has little impact.

I still found Must Read sort of interesting. If nothing else, it stands as proof of the dangers of putting too much faith in psychiatric analysis. The never seen nor heard therapist Dr. Lenn, to whom Dews's grandmother refers almost constantly during the second half of the film, comes off as the true villain here. He was clearly punishing the grandmother with "advice" that was wrongheaded, misogynistic, and mean. It would be reassuring to say that psychiatry has improved substantially in the ensuing decades, but I'm not going to make that claim.