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21 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

More than the 60's

Author: cadmandu from California
17 January 2006

That old line about "If you remember the 60's you weren't there" doesn't apply to people with cameras.

This is much more than a documentary about a boy born to hippies in the Haight in the 1960's. It's about the four generations that telescope around him, before and after. It's about family.

It's also about the choices that people make, the prices they pay, and the successes that have or don't have. It's also a slice of American life of which we could use a whole lot more. The scene of Ralph's parents' friends (all of them well into old age) sitting around, reminiscing and giggling about being Communists in upstate New York is totally priceless.

And the enduring hope of young people who gleefully plunge into marriage and families is what makes the world go around.

Most of the newspaper reviews for this film were ho-hum, and one was downright negative. Don't believe them, this film's a keeper.

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16 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Compelling and Delightful!

Author: LMorland from Paris, France
17 November 2005

I saw _Following Sean_ this week in Paris with a friend who lived in San Francisco during the 60s, and we both loved the film. The documentarian's work is prodigious -- we were constantly amazed by the continuous progression of time: just when we thought we'd seen the latest of Sean and his family, another, more recent, slice of their lives emerged on screen. The documentarian wove the story of his own family into the film, and while at first I found the digressions slightly annoying (Sean and his family are so compelling that one wants to see more of them), at the end I decided his decision was correct, and that the study of three generations of his own family deepened the impact of the film.

I highly recommend this documentary to anyone interested in sociology, social psychology (especially concerning the effects of 60's freedom-loving childraising on their children), McCarthyism, the effects of aging, and in general the history of the United States over the last 50 years. Anyone who lived in Berkeley or San Francisco in the 60s or 70s will be fascinated! I was shocked to realize that _Following Sean_ has, apparently, not been screened yet in the Untied States. A distributor must be found!

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10 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Brilliant, complex, funny, sad, wonderful.

Author: raphaelrajendra from NYC, USA
11 May 2006

I know we tend to rate most highly those movies we've seen most recently, but I cannot recommend _Following Sean_ too highly. Engaging, funny, brilliant, simultaneously comforting and uncomfortable, and observant, the movie asks us to confront our own lives' narratives; received wisdom about the 1960s and more recent American history; the meaning of adulthood, and a thousand other things. It made me think in a way films rarely can -- the way books more often can -- but couldn't possibly give me a headache. And as for technical elements, the editing and narration are perfect, and the granular texture of the film itself complements that of the families' stories. I actually loved _Following Sean_, and came to IMDb to look for information about whether it will ever be released as a DVD. (The message board says it'll be released as a DVD in Oct. 2006.) I rarely buy movies, but I'll buy this one.

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8 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

A Little Frustrating

Author: dlatreset from Nashville, TN
8 March 2009

This was a good film with some major flaws. I was drawn to the film because of its purported primary subject, depicted on the cover - Sean. I read the back-story, which serves as the premise for the new film, and assumed we'd be delving into the life of this compelling character.

While there were many satisfying tidbits throughout, we aren't introduced to 'modern-day' Sean until we're more than 20 minutes into the movie. This should serve as an indication of the film's primary flaw. Bottom line: For a film entitled, "Following Sean," we're not really given much time with the title character. We're left guessing about his true thoughts about his hippie upbringing, his parents' decision to allow him to experience said hippie culture unabated at such a young age, and many of the details of his adolescent years and early adulthood. We're given only fleeting glimpses of his parents, both in 1969 and 2005.

What the film fails to acknowledge is the basis for its own appeal - we're drawn in by that little child who is obviously in need of adequate parenting. What were his parents thinking? Why would they allow him to be filmed making references to using drugs at four years old? What sort of backlash did the film's release cause for them? Did it contribute to the breakup of their marriage? Do they wish they had done things differently? I never got the sense that the filmmaker got close enough to his subjects to truly answer any of these questions. Instead, we're given updates on Arlyck's life since the original film's release - almost in slideshow form at some points. It felt, at times, like getting a family update letter that had arrived at the wrong address. You take it all in on a curious level, while all the while realizing it wasn't really meant for your eyes.

We're also not given enough of the 15 minute original short. If we had known our subject, his parents, and even the filmmaker a little better, we could have invested in the updates on a deeper level.

That said, the film is nicely shot, and contains a great soundtrack. Its strongest suit is its title character. I only wish we'd gotten to know him a little better.

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9 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

This thing just destroyed me..

Author: dazzlem from United States
1 August 2007

I don't know if it was the mood I was in or what, but I just had a wonderful time with this movie. It's scope is epic. It covers 60 years of counter culture adventures big and small in 90 minutes. The film maker's whole life is here. The thing is decades in the making. We jump back and forth through space and time meeting a cast that runs the gambit from hero of the American Communist movement to capitalist Russian Trophy bride. FAR SUPERIOR to the similarly subjected over-hyped "Tarnation" of a few years ago. I guarantee you will like this movie. It's a great story told in a very cool way. A documentary that engages the way fictional narrative engages. This gets tossed around a lot in reviews but; It is a remarkable achievement.


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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:


Author: Scroobious from Los Angeles
22 July 2010

This movie should be called following Ralph. The director/narrator does include quite a bit of Sean, but it really becomes a means to discuss himself. I don't think this is a narcissistic move as much as an attempt to make a full length documentary out of some very intriguing and very short footage of a young Sean. The documentary is based around the director's old footage which is somewhat interesting, but it stretches thin when the director tries to pull it out into a full length.

The premise is also intriguing. After seeing the footage of a young Sean I was very interested to find out who he had become as a man. And who he has become defeats expectations, not in such an uplifting way as surprising.

I love a good documentary, especially one that is a character study. But in the modern vein of Michael Moore documentaries, the filmmaker too often becomes the film, or at least the voice that tells you what to think or how to feel about the subject matter. And this documentary makes those mistakes to the point that the subject isn't exactly followed as much as it meanders. If you haven't seen all of the Maysles brothers documentaries, watch those, see how a real documentary is made... and then maybe, consider seeing this.

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9 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Compelling ,touching film that pulls you into it's characters lives...

Author: ronzo13 from Providence RI
21 April 2007

At first I found it a bit predictable,style wise, sixties home movies ,hippies,the Haight, Sean as a little boy talking to the camera ,all cool,your basic documentary type film,I wasn't really that interested in meeting Sean,as an adult, there are so many other things going on. Really , before I knew it, I was well caught up into Sean,his family ,the film makers family and their intense ,admirable lives all around. There are some very poignant scenes that brought tears to my eyes,Sean and his Fathers relationship particularly. Sean is a great guy,kind of hard to read, maybe mixed up maybe not,Mr Arlyck has done an amazing ,deft job of pulling the viewer into this tale.My favorite type of film experience,right here.

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5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

The choices we make, the lives we lead, the people we love

Author: da_lowdown from United States
31 July 2007

Stumbled across this gem on PBS the other night. I was initially spellbound by the storytelling ability of the narrator (Ralph Arlyck), but drawn in even further by the tapestry of lives involved. When we think of the 60's and early 70's, we think of Woodstock, hippies, free love, San Francisco, etc. What we don't often dwell on are the lives implicated in the thick of the hippie lifestyle. What lead to those lives? Who were the parents? Grandparents? What impact did this lifestyle have on the children? Grandchildren? Not a judgmental piece of film-making, but it does raise a lot of questions. And no, it doesn't offer a lot of answers. But does life? An amazing piece of film-making.

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4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

very moving meditation on life and relationships.

Author: Matt from Chicago
26 February 2009

I stumbled upon this film on Netflix while perusing the documentary section and I'm very glad I did. This was very moving and thoughtful film, the filmmaker weaves his own life story into that of the subject, who was a precocious four year old boy in the Haight Ashbury sixties and now an adult trying to figure out his own place in the world. A very quiet meditation on life, relationships, the impermanence of everything we think will last forever. It was like watching years fly by in the blink of an eye, which in a way they actually do, both beautiful and depressing. Possibly not for everyones taste but as someone who didn't live in the sixties or have anything to do with those times it was still a fascinating peak into life at the time and the people who lived during that era.

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Following a Culture

Author: estella2 from United States
10 January 2014

I think this is one of the best movies/documentaries that I've seen in my life. The cinematography was beautiful and the interviews were captivating. Ralph was about the same age I am right now when he journeyed out to San Francisco. I really identified with the feeling of wanting to get away and discover the "utopia" that supposedly exists in life; wanting to know what your place is in the world and not having a clue, and confusing trends and egoists with profound epiphanies and prophets.

How can you live ideally without hurting others around you? Is it possible to take a hedonistic 'free' ride as well as have the fulfilling family life? Can you really have both, or is that just a fantasy? The description of 'free spirit' came to mean something entirely different to me after seeing this. After I watched this movie I felt like Ralph indirectly answered some of these questions on life that many struggle with. Even with this sobering warning, sometimes you still want to believe in the fantasy, and even though we know it is foolish, many of us will still probably go on through life with unrealistic expectations only to discover the same thing that Ralph has uncovered.

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