Close your eyes. Imagine having just been born, and then opening your eyes to a man doting on you from behind a camera lens. He’s your dad, documentarian Doug Block, and has just shoved that in your face. Maybe that’s how his daughter, Lucy, felt after the thrill and fun of being recorded wore off, …and teenhood came?
Well, he kept that up, particularly when an empty nest loomed.
Mr. Block has recorded Lucy from her toddling days through her last ones in high school. He didn’t begin with this film as a goal, but to document her life. With her flight from home to college imminent, he feels “a new urgency” to make something of the footage. Lucy’s story, “The Kids Grow Up,” is just as much one of her dad’s terror over losing his little girl, as it is hers of trying out her newly sprung wings. This is a special, personal documentary film.
The Film Society of Minneapolis/St. Paul shows this one at St. Anthony Main from Feb. 25th through Mar. 3rd. Mr. Block will attend the 7:15pm screening and be available to answer questions.
The story. The irony. the drama.
Doug introduces his daughter’s story as a record of her last year in high school. As he says, early in the film, Lucy “had the great misfortune to be born right at the dawn of the consumer camcorder. And the double misfortune to have a documentary filmmaker for a father,” Mr. Block said. Prophetic. Does he know just how prophetic?
“The Kids Grow Up” meanders along a sentimental path that this its maker seems to need in order to let Lucy go and become the woman she needs to be – on her own. It seems to follow a stream of consciousness, having been organized more emotionally than with intention. It’s mixed with Mr. Block’s thoughts about his relationship with his own father; and how Doug’s father himself learned to be one, on-the-job just as Mr. Block did.
As Doug’s wife, Marjorie, notes, “And when she works all this through in therapy,” the footage can be entered as evidence.
Even so, dad’s lovingly invasive lens provides several witty and amusing moments.
Little Lucy Block playing...maybe posing
The best bits
A hilarious moment comes during vacation when a teenage Lucy entertains her French beau, Romain, who’s on a European-style vacation. Doug and Marjorie discuss the probability that Lucy and Romain have already had sex – in the apartment.
Doug doesn’t like it. While she isn’t happy about it, Marjorie’s rational (maybe because she’s a lawyer).
Doug asks “How is it you’re so comfortable with Lucy and Romain doing it?”
Marjorie, “Well, I know they’re sleeping together elsewhere. …Sexual pleasure is so nice!”
Doug, “Yeah, it’s something you can do by yourself…” She chuckles and turns away.
Another guffaw comes as Lucy awaits her behind-the-wheel exam. ”I’m about to take my road test. I’m really nervous. And being filmed isn’t helping…” She breathes deeply in order to calm herself, which seems futile. “I have to pee. I feel like I’m gonna throw up…” Just then she sees the examiner is primed to put her into and then right out of her misery. The moment is concise, hilarious and genuine; and a potent summary of the stress that Doug’s and dad’s camera adds.
Pushing his daughter away in order to be closer?
But somehow Mr. Block doesn’t know when to stop. Late in the film we see that his gentle, persistent inquisition pushes Lucy into fatigued tears – punishing her. He’s pissing her off, she says. A beat later, we see a brief scene of her toddler self, thrilled with the fun and ego boost from being on-camera.
“I like videotaping. I like seeing myself on TV…rather than looking in a mirror,” Lucy says.
That juxtaposition is remarkable. And telling.
Bottom-line: “The Kids Grow Up” is a sweet and candid dual portrait of a dad and his beautiful, level-headed grown young daughter. Daughters’ll be sure that it’s a story for and about them. Dads’ll differ, saying that it’s clearly for them. This documentary film provides a different angle on how it is to be either one of them.
If we graded this: 4.5 out of 5.