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51 Birch Street


Read the Reviews

"With 51 Birch Street, Doug Block has fashioned an engaging and at times even suspenseful mystery out of his family's story and, along the way, a social history of the American family unfolds, from the uptight 50s through the 70s (a swath of story worthy of Updike, Cheever or Roth) to the present."


Karen Block Engwall (age 55)

As Doug’s sister I’ve watched with awe and envy as he flits from festival to festival with 51 Birch Street.  Who would have believed that the story of a middle-class, suburban, 50’s family would touch so many people?  I’ve shown the film to some of my friends and colleagues, most of whom are therapists or psychologists of one kind or another.  Their responses have astounded me; they are so moved by the story, and so drawn in by the events described.  One friend whose opinion I greatly value told me that she envied me my parents because they were so articulate and insightful.  I tried to explain that the parents she saw in the film are not the parents I grew up with.  My parents were not articulate, and they definitely kept their insights, and their emotions, to themselves.  I know they deliberately chose to keep so much of their inner selves hidden, because in my family it was just too dangerous to risk talking about feelings.  But I don’t believe I really knew before I saw this film just how much lay below the surface.  It has been a somewhat painful experience to watch this film and to know that so many people who are strangers to me are now privy to some of my family members most intimate thoughts and private behavior.  There are two big compensations though; I know my parents better than I did before, especially my mother who I can now see in a much more compassionate light, and the fact that so many people seem to truly be moved by the film to look at their own family relationships and to perhaps change them for the better, knowing that it is never too late.


I’m sure right after a screening, people want to talk about those “intimate thoughts and private behavior” of your family but I have a sneeking suspicion that what most people really think about later is their own family’s private behavior. One of the beautiful things about this as a film is that it resonates on a personal level - we don’t need to dwell on your story, it motivates us to think about our own, alhough I’d bet that sometime someone will recognize you and run up and say something uncouth. But, it takes all kinds, right?

By: Agnes Varnum, on May 24, 2006

First, thank you so much for the film. I enjoyed each and every minute. Unknown to me, but I was meant to see this film. I connected with it. It gave me insights to life, my life. I have not stopped thinking about it, less now, but the first week, I reviewed it. I wrote to the woman who did the write-up in the SF Chronicle and she responded. I wanted to know if there would be a follow up about Mike and Kitty.
It was so real and actually beautiful.
Thank you and thank you again. Please continue to give us this kind of life stories. I know you did this one. But who knows you just might come up with someone else’s. blessing,,,,,,,,,,,Diana

By: Diana G, on Dec 08, 2006

Your parents lives parallel my husband and my least from what I have read about the movie..The difference is my husband and I were married to keep him from going to Viet Nam.

We were divorced in 1998. Amonth ago he married the woman for whom he left me. My kids wonder what is the difference now, between his marriage and the years they have lived together.  It is like the other shoe finally dropped.

What struck me about reading about the movie in AARP’s magazine is how happy your father is now.  How he has found love and happiness.  Somehow it has made me more accepting of my former husband’s happiness.  It has also given me hope that I may too may find some joy.

I am anxious to see the film.  The independent theater in my area is LandMark.  I have also asked to be notified when it comes out on DVD.  I debate about telling our sons about 51 Birch Street.  I will have to see it first. 

I am particularly interested in your mothers therapy, why she intered and was she as self-absorbed as one critic implied.  She is me.

My very best wishes for your continuet success.

By: Venette Hysmith, on Dec 12, 2006

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