An in-depth look at the director James Ronald Whitney's family history of incest spanning at least three generations and the devastating consequences that include drug abuse and alcoholism.
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An in-depth look at the director James Ronald Whitney's family history of incest spanning at least three generations and the devastating consequences that include drug abuse and alcoholism.

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January 2000 (USA)  »

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Just, Melvin  »

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Heart wrenching
7 September 2012 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The "label" on this documentary leads us to believe it is going to be about a very sick man, Melvin Just, a man who killed a woman in cold blood (proven beyond any reasonable doubt), and who not only sexually molested young girls so little it gives you the creeps, but even married women with two year old daughters so he could do this. Yuck.

That is the "label".

But the documentary is more about the family, and the harrowing lives they now lead. You feel so much for them, and understand their pain. The director is part of the family, and was able to get deep into the personalities of the women, now adults.

As adults, you can see they are struggling with simple communication skills. One, in particular, a lady with dark hair, who finds herself compromised by her own brother later, and who rambles incoherently, lost and confused. She touches you the most. If you met her, you would probably find it hard not to fall for her.

The striking thing about these women is how much they seem like women you probably work with, or have seen somewhere.

There is no doubt that Melvin was abusive. He took advantage of those weaker than himself, and probably joked about it with his friends.

The documentary is done while Melvin is on his last legs. Old, fat, in a wheelchair, obviously dying, and helpless. Now, each of his victims is stronger than he is.

When he is not present, the women contemplate retribution. The narrator, whose mother he molested, holds back his anger, but confronts Melvin with the facts. Melvin is in denial. Is he lying? Or his mind totally gone? It doesn't matter. He's now in the "vulnerable" position.

Near the end, the women visit him in the nursing home. They don't kick him or abuse him. They hug him, and show themselves to be mature, civilized people. It appears that at least while making this film, that Whitney himself had too much wasted anger for a wheelchair bound loser. His relatives had a much healthier outlook, which gives insight that is not recognized yet in college Psychology classes I've taken, that victims of abuse actually do get stronger, so to speak.

And it all disappears. All their emotional problems fade away, as they have this victory. And it is a victory. There's nothing left to do to Melvin. Now, they want to be "better people" than he was. Killing him now would just ease his suffering.

This is a documentary for the mature minded. Most of us have been abused by people with more power. Those who live through torments know that you don't have to look for "hate". There are plenty of "Melvins" out there who will look you up, and bring their hate upon you, for no reason. On utube, there are "Melvins" posting hate messages towards the family, claiming they would have done some vile terrible things to Melvin in their place.

That's the kind of hatred the narrator and the women struggle to avoid, and yet they find "Melvins" out there who hate them for not being immature savages like Melvin. "Ironic" is the word that leaps to mind, as you see these people post their hatred, not even realizing they are "Melvins".

Melvin didn't know he was Melvin.

But the family knows. These are brighter people than they appear to be, one with an IQ over 150 that we know of. The abuse upon them is the story. There are those who try to deal with it, and there are those who spitefully abuse. These women showed they could rise above the hatred, though they will still have doubts, and moments where they want retribution. The bottom line is that they rose above it, that they proved they were not "Melvins".

That is victory.


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