Tarnation (2003)

Unrated  |   |  Documentary, Biography  |  10 November 2004 (France)
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 5,611 users   Metascore: 87/100
Reviews: 114 user | 72 critic | 32 from Metacritic.com

Filmmaker Jonathan Caouette's documentary on growing up with his schizophrenic mother -- a mixture of snapshots, Super-8, answering machine messages, video diaries, early short films, and more -- culled from 19 years of his life.


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Renee Leblanc ...
Adolph Davis ...
Rosemary Davis ...
David Sanin Paz ...
Joshua Williams ...
Michael Cox ...
David Leblanc ...
Stacey Mowery ...
Michael Mouton ...
Greg Ayres ...
Himself (as Bam-Bam)
Vanda Stovall ...
Dagon James ...
Vivian Kalinov ...
Herself (as Girl in Student Film)
Steve Caouette ...


Part documentary, part narrative fiction, part home movie, and part acid trip. A psychedelic whirlwind of snapshots, Super-8 home movies, old answering machine messages, video diaries, early short films, snippets of '80s pop culture, and dramatic reenactments to create an epic portrait of an American family travesty. The story begins in 2003 when Jonathan learns that his schizophrenic mother, Renee, has overdosed on her lithium medication. He is catapulted back into his real and horrifying family legacy of rape, abandonment, promiscuity, drug addiction, child abuse, and psychosis. As he grows up on camera, he finds the escapist balm of musical theater and B horror flicks and reconnects to life through a queer chosen family. Then a look into the future shows Jonathan as he confronts the symbiotic and almost unbearable love he shares with his beautiful and tragically damaged mother. Written by Sujit R. Varma

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Your greatest creation is the life you lead


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Parents Guide:





Release Date:

10 November 2004 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Kolastirio  »

Box Office


$218 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$12,740 (USA) (8 October 2004)


$592,014 (USA) (27 May 2005)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


The original cut of the film ran over 2 hrs. and 40 minutes long. See more »


[first lines]
Renee Leblanc: [singing] This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.
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Written by Lisa Germano
Performed by Lisa Germano
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User Reviews

please read this..
20 November 2004 | by See all my reviews

I thought this movie was a masterpiece and something a lot of people really should see. I disagree with what some of the other people have been saying on this, because you don't need to identify with this movie. Its not meant to only effect people who have mentally ill parents or are homosexual. A movie doesn't have to be suited to you for you to enjoy it, that's a really selfish thing to say. The fact that someone is showing what its like using their own life in complete truth is amazing. (to some of the people who commented): stop criticizing everything that isn't perfect and not as entertaining as you wanted it to be and try and learn something from it. It seems like no one can just once put themselves in someone else's shoes and see what their lives are like without complaining and being disgusted. Try to be more open minded and give something a chance without prejudice. Its just like if you do something and the whole time your saying in your head how much you hate it, your obviously not going to like it.

I don't really care though, because I really liked it. It just makes me mad when people can just trash such hard work. So what, the movie was upsetting, you didn't have to actually be put through it, why are you complaining.

In contrast I think the movie was very uplifting how it turned out. Although I can agree that its not something you would watch if you just want to be entertained, but its still worth watching and I can guaranty that if you see it with good expectations, you'll like it. It was an extremely interesting film and also very much original. I definitely recommend it to anyone that is interested in psychology. The movie itself is very well shot and has great sound and music. Again, I think most people will be happy they saw it and please disregard what others say (and what I say). See it and decide for yourself.

68 of 97 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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