For those fresh off the gut-wrenching experience of watching Revolutionary Road, there is Must Read After My Death. The plot is similar. Allis and Charley are the typical suburban couple, married in the ’50s and raising their four children in Hartford, Connecticut. But Charley has to travel for work, so he and Allis keep in touch by recording letters and sending the tapes to each other.
But as time passes, things begin to rapidly deteriorate. Allis feels suffocated by motherhood and housekeeping, Charley drinks and philanders with other women. As Allis becomes more and more boxed in, she records her feelings, creating an audio diary of sorts. Allis eventually goes to a psychoanalyst because of these feelings, where she is told that all the tumult in her home has been caused solely by her. These sessions were also recorded.
Tragic, but what makes it even more so is the fact that this isn’t based on a novel or a screenplay. This was real.
Filmmaker Morgan Dews’ grandmother Allis died in 2001. Though he was very close to her, he wasn’t aware of the hours of audio recordings, reel-to-reel diaries made for her psychiatrist and home movies that she had kept over the years, especially during the turbulent ’50s and ’60s.
However, the most stunning file of all was an envelope of tape transcripts and notes labeled Allis’s “Must Read After My Death” file. This became the title of the documentary. Using the photos and film, Dews paints a pretty picture, that is if the documentary had no sound. However, the seemingly happy family running about on the 8mm film reels is contradicted by the audio recordings running over them. Allis tells her story firsthand and the audience can only sit back and listen in horror as the essence of suburbia slowly crushes her.
But though the situation seems black and white, Dews cautions viewers.
“While researching for this film, I came across a psychiatric concept in family dynamics called “the designated patient.” When a family dynamic is broken, one person often becomes the center of blame, or the “designated patient”; this blame often rotates among family members. This film is a little like that. It presents competing accounts of the same household and who, if anyone, should be held accountable for the tumult.”
The film has recently been released theatrically in both New York and L.A. to sold out audiences. For locations and times, see this website.
A preview for the film can be viewed here.
Must Read After My Death Press Kit
Must Read After My Death Official Website