If Tolstoy had lived in our time, he might have expanded on his famed quote from Anna Karenina to note that happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way ... and that's demonstrated through their documentary. Following in the archival-confessional mold of such documentaries as Tarnation and Capturing the Friedmans, filmmaker Morgan Dews has created Must Read After My Death -- or, rather, assembled it, from decades of photographs and home movies and Dictaphone recordings found in his grandmother's home after her passing. Dews doesn't interject himself into this material; at the same time, he's made the decisions that shape it -- the inclusions, the deletions, the things we linger on, the things elided over.
Must Read After My Death is, first and foremost, a portrait of the marriage between Allis and Charlie. Allis is a mother and home maker, but the need to be perfect chances at her, chokes her; Charley travels for work, a charmer and hearty man's man whose easy charm makes it entirely too easy to ignore his family. Hoping to make Charley's distance more tolerable -- or, at least, more entertaining -- the family purchased a Dictaphone, and sent audio recordings back and forth. These recordings -- made in quiet contemplation or moments of anger, some heavy with things unsaid, some thick with the sounds of rage and desperation -- are the aching heart and wounded soul of the film.