- Director: Jules Rosskam
- Producer: Jules Rosskam; Marc Smolowitz
Challenging as it is [on so many different levels], this is Jules Rosskam's autobiographical, cathartic, personal form of art. And, as we all know, [all] art is subjective.
The main problem with autobiography is...is your story interesting enough to engage an audience? And, if so, can you tell that story in a way that will maintain interest from start to finish? Herein lies the problem, Jules Rosskam wants the answers he wants to hear. He doesn't get them. Frustrating for him and frustrating to listen to...because that's what you do with this film, you listen...to conversations and interviews that are accompanied by relevant and [too many] irrelevant images, [rather charming] home movies and [artsy] animations. It does tend to go round in circles...too much!
There was an interesting premise to this film - a kid retraces the epic trans-American roadtrip that their parents undertook in the early 70s - sadly, that retracing was abandoned after 6 weeks...leaving the film [somewhat] prematurely [somewhat] high and dry. Shame...as the film drives off in a completely different direction.
Issues surrounding...transition, an emotionally [and physically] absent father, allegations pertaining to grand-paternal & paternal sexual and physical abuse, maternal denial...are all addressed, debated, rebuffed and questioned. It's baggage-laden, serious stuff...with no definitive resolution!
But...the [only] straight-to-camera segment, the reading of the [resolving, condemning & forgiving!] letter to his brother [who suffers from severe mental health issues] could, quite easily, be viewed as...a step too far...all in the name of art, all for this cathartic film!
Art - truly - is subjective. Catharsis - truly - is personal.
The question of how to approach an abusive past is tackled head-on in this contemplative mix of home movies, collage and interviews. After years of attempting to heal from the actions of an abusive grandfather, Rosskam presents a series of interviews and conversations, including with his own parents, that examine the ways in which trauma encrypts in uncanny ways; the function of speech and narrative in the process of decryption; and the role of film and filmmaking in the practice of healing. Visuals ranging from the vast American west to 16mm ink drawings show the journey Rosskam takes, from trying to reconcile with his reticent father to the realisation that he must confront another, deeper fact about the nature of the abuse. With the support of his partner Alex, Rosskam unfolds a family history creased with complicated understandings and expressions of love.