Review: Phyllis and Harold DVD

STUDIO: Rainbow Releasing/Breaking Glass | DIRECTOR: Cindy Kleine
RELEASE DATE: 6/7/2010 | PRICE: DVD $24.99
BONUSES: commentary
SPECS: NR | 85 min. | Documentary | fullscreen | stereo | English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

In the beginning of Phyllis and Harold, filmmaker Cindy Kleine explains that she wanted to document her parents and find out who they are. This documentary grew out of her 1998 short Til Death Do Us Part, which is a 20-minute interview presented in a he said/she said style.

The longer film starts out rather lovely, as the couple discuss their courtship and read their past love letters. But 20 minutes in, Kleine films her mother confessing to a five-year affair early in her marriage—a love that she never got over. It turns out Phyllis and Harold is a love story, but a tragic one.

The best illustration of their unhappy 59-year marriage is Kleine’s separate interviews with her mother and father. She asks each one, “Do you feel like you married the right person?” Phyllis says “no” softly; Harold says “absolutely.” While Harold recounts a “successful practice, successful marriage,” Phyllis describes his excessive drinking and unbearable behavior. Kleine and her sister Ricky remember the constant fighting.

But in the end, you empathize with both. Harold is hopelessly clueless; Phyllis is hopelessly helpless. Kleine (who is the wife of theater director Andre Gregory, who exec produced this film) effectively interweaves animated sequences to retell some parts of her family history and uses a good mix of home movies and photos. Shot over a 12-year period, the film couldn’t be released publicly while Harold was still alive. Upon reflecting on her mother’s affair, Kleine tells us the lesson her mother taught her: “Romantic love is one thing. Real life is another.”

 

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About Cheryl

Cheryl Cheng reviewed DVD and Blu-ray titles for Video Business magazine and has a special place in her heart for foreign and independent films.