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51 Birch Street

4.1 out of 5 stars 97 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Documentary filmmaker Doug Block always thought his parents' 54-year marriage was a good one. But when his mother dies unexpectedly and his father swiftly marries a former secretary, he discovers a family history far more complex and troubled than he ever imagined. 51 BIRCH STREET is a riveting personal documentary that explores a universal human question - how much about your parents do you really want to know?

Special Features

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Product Details

  • Actors: Carol Block, Doug Block, Mike Block
  • Directors: Doug Block
  • Format: NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Image Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: March 12, 2012
  • Run Time: 88 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000QFAFOU
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #152,646 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Z. Freeman VINE VOICE on August 26, 2007
Format: DVD
51 Birch Street is the family discussion that most families never have. But not only do the Blocks have that discussion, documentary filmmaker Doug Block has captured it all on film and expertly crafted an easily accessible documentary that is equally amusing and moving, stirring and reassuring. What begins as one man's investigation into his parent's past slowly morphs into the most eloquently constructed, universally relatable digital home movie of all time.

Ineterspersing decades of video footage, photos, interviews, and (most notably) his mother's journals, Block examines his parent's 54-year marriage looking for clues as to why his father may have remarried only three months after his mother's death. As Block slowly unearths information from his mother's journals and through interviews with his father and relatives, the film picks up steam, building towards the inevitably cathartic finale.

But 51 Birch Street isn't just an autobiographical film about Block's parents. It's also not just a study in marital fidelity (or lack thereof). What 51 Birch Street really does is examine the disconnect between parents and children, between generations, between siblings, and between friends and documents one man's journey in bridging that disconnect. 51 Birch Street is the rare film that is designed to open dialogue on many complex issues. As Block works towards his own resolutions, audience members can't help but think about questions they may feel the need to ask or to discuss.

Inevitably there are uncomfortable moments where both Block and the audience are wondering whether he should delve any further into the past, both for moral reasons and because, as the DVD cover asks: "Do you REALLY want to know your parents?
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Format: DVD
A documentary that seems more like a reinactment, '51 Birch Street' presents an excellent family affair. Being able to draw from a large stash of photos, a few home movies and videos, as well as his deceased mother's daily diary, filmmaker Doug Block discovers a lot about his family--mostly his parents--that he hardly knew possible. Ambivalence creeps into play, for his discoveries are bittersweet. Sometimes he finds out things he'd rather not know. Generosity is also present, however, for the film wouldn't be interesting if we didn't care about the participants. Some of the discoveries have to do with social changes occurring between the fifties and sixties. Block narrates the family story with both emotion and detachment, but mainly approaches the film like he were a reporter. (We find out early in the film that after his mother dies, his father is quickly on the mend, marrying his long-time secretary.) With editing that uses good judgment and family discussions that yield interest, '51 Birch Street' is a real find.
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Format: DVD
When I first received '51 Birch Street' in the mail from Netflix, I took a moment to remember what it was about. I then remembered and my husband and I watched the movie that night. We were absolutely blown away by the reality of what Doug Block must have been going through. First, to have such a tragic disruption and then to figure out what secrets lie hidden beneath. I was hooked. There were such honest things that his family said. Some of which totally dumbfounded me. How could a Father say such things to his own son? It made me mad, sad, and everything in between. But, that's what the film was about. Finding out the mysteries of the life you thought you knew. After that, you face the consequences.

This film is nothing if not honest. It takes a real, hard look into the lives of this wonderfully strange family and brings them to the world in a very unique and creative way. By the time it ended, I felt as though I knew each person and I missed them when it was over.

Even though I'd seen the movie, I still went and ordered it to have my own copy. I loaned it to my in-laws and they were smitten as well. They said some of it was hard to take. I agree. Without that element of slight brutality, it would have been just another journal-esque movie about a family. It's the tragedies in life that bring all people to the same level. Then, you get to know someone for what they really are.

'51 Birch Street' is a true gem in this world of boobs and beer and so-called "reality tv". This is what film-making SHOULD be!!
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Format: DVD
Moving, ultimately enthralling documentary about an average suburban New York husband and wife, and their family. And, no, it isn't a secret murder or molestation or other sensational element often seen in other family documentaries that makes this one engrossing. It's simply the sad revelation that there were secret emotional lives, laced with frustration and sadness, under the stiff-upper-lip exteriors of the married couple who are the film's subjects. Documentarian Doug Block's approach to his parents is clever: he first makes it seem that it was his father who had a secret life- real and interior- while his mother happily toiled away with the kids. But it's later revealed that this description better fit Doug's mother (though I'm not completely convinced Doug's father didn't have his own very-real adventures, too, to counter his frustrations). Still, whatever one ends up believing about what went on and where the fault originated in the marriage, the documentary itself is affectionate and non-judgemental, just wanting to understand its subjects, and feel a little sad for them for all their years of underlying unhappiness.

But there's also joy and hope in the film, in the form of Doug's 83 year-old father finding ultimate contentment with an old acquaintance (possibly old flame), to the amazement of Doug and his sisters. It's this new relationship, however, that gets the documentary rolling in the first place, as the filmmaker and his siblings ask, "How can Dad be married for over fifty years but then fall in love with a woman from his past only three months after his wife dies?"

Good extras shed further light on this very interesting story and on Doug Block's quirky and often entertaining extended family members. Those family members, by the way, perform the welcome function of occasionally lightening the mood in an otherwise fairly dark film.
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