Tuesday, 20 July 2010


In the same vein as Capturing The Friedmans, Must Read After My Death is a documentary which tells its story through family footage and recordings. The focus here is the faltering relationship of Allis and Charley, the deceased grandparents of director Morgan Dews. Dews came across the recordings in his grandmother’s house shortly after she died, and came to truly understand their issues through the editing process. Charley, suave but troubled, worked in Australia for a third of the year, leaving Allis at home with their four children, and it becomes clear that this is what put a strain on the relationship. Through Dictaphone correspondence, we learn of Charley’s alcoholism and popularity with the women, as well as Allis’ struggles to keep her family happy.

Though clearly meant as a tribute to his own grandparents, Dews has essentially created a moving portrait of any American family striving to keep up appearances. Inadequacy is a frequent topic, as if Allis and Charley lived their entire lives benchmarking themselves against ‘the American dream’. What is fascinating about the film is what isn’t shown – Allis talks a little about her first marriage but Charley avoids discussing his. Whether it was Dews’ decision to exclude any reference to these issues or if there simply wasn’t any discussion of it, it contributes greatly to the viewer’s understanding of this couple as human beings. A daringly personal project, Must Read After My Death is a beautiful, caring tribute to Dews’ grandparents, brimming with love and nostalgia.

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