The Kids Grow Up -- Film Review

Self-absorbed doc chronicles the filmmaker’s bout with empty-nest syndrome.

The main feeling you’re likely to experience while watching Doug Block’s documentary “The Kids Grow Up” is total relief that you’re not related to the filmmaker. That is, unless you want seemingly every waking moment of your life recorded for posterity.

Block, previously responsible for the highly acclaimed “51 Birch Street,” specializes in documenting his family life. His earlier effort detailed the emotional chasm in his parents’ long marriage; this one details his severe case of empty-nest syndrome brought on by the imminent departure to college of 17-year-old daughter Lucy.

Having had the unfortunate luck to be born in the age of the home video camera, Lucy has had her life obsessively documented by her father since birth. As a little girl, she’s delighted by it, relishing the opportunity to see herself “on television.” But as the years progress and she grows into a remarkably intelligent, self-assured young woman, she seems decidedly more ambivalent, at one point telling her father, “I hate it.” He apologizes, then proceeds to keep filming anyway.

Another frequent subject of his camera’s unblinking gaze is his plain-speaking wife Marjorie, who at one point rebukes him for his “Peter Pan complex” and whose temporary bout with severe depression, dutifully recorded for our delectation, is one of the film’s more uncomfortable episodes.

How much of this you’ll find enlightening and how much simply creepy will depend on your tolerance for cinematic navel-gazing. To his credit, the filmmaker frequently expresses his own self-doubts, between whining about his angst over a situation that every parent, if they’re lucky, goes through at some point in their lives.

Lacking the intense emotional angle that made “51 Birch” engrossing, this effort seems far more self-indulgent than enlightening. But for those who just can’t get enough of the filmmaker’s family life, you'll be glad to know that his next project concerns his 25-year marriage.

Opened Oct. 29 (Shadow Distribution)
Production: Copacetic Pictures, Hard Working Movies, ZDF/Arte, HBO Documentary Films
Director/director of photography: Doug Block
Screenwriters: Doug Block, Maeve O’Boyle
Producers: Doug Block, Lori Cheatle
Executive producers: Sheila Nevins, Barbara Truyen, Tabitha Jackson, Katie Speight, Anne Even, Doris Hepp
Editor: Maeve O’Boyle
Music: H. Scott Salinas
No rating, 90 minutes