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Not Without My Daughter

It's hard to fault Doug Block for being too attached to the past. He's got an archive of footage drawing him back, and a portable DV posterity-preserver complicating his present. "Don't you want to rewind and go back to the fourth grade?" a fellow father asks in Block's The Kids Grow Up, a rhetorical question that the documentarian makes literal with cued-up footage of his once-fourth-grade daughter hopscotching for the camera.

While his last film, the quietly revelatory 51 Birch Street, was an investigation into his parents' rocky marriage, his latest is more like a confession, with fatherly anxiety over Lucy's impending high school graduation serving as the central narrative and conflict. The bewildered, ambivalent son of the previous film now reluctantly contemplates middle-aged dad-dom.

Seemingly modest but stealthily ambitious, Block's feature-length home movies have a way of spiraling outward just as he's drilling inward, of becoming profoundly universal when most nakedly personal.

And despite their candor, the Blocks are less exhibitionistic than welcoming. They make for very dear company. Lucy's an only child, but there's a plural noun in the film's title for a reason. In fact, Doug often comes across as the least mature person in the room. You know that he won't find resolution through his lens, yet you keep hoping all the same. (Sunset 5)

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