Documentary on the Friedmans, a seemingly typical, upper-middle-class Jewish family whose world is instantly transformed when the father and his youngest son are arrested and charged with sh... Read allDocumentary on the Friedmans, a seemingly typical, upper-middle-class Jewish family whose world is instantly transformed when the father and his youngest son are arrested and charged with shocking and horrible crimes.Documentary on the Friedmans, a seemingly typical, upper-middle-class Jewish family whose world is instantly transformed when the father and his youngest son are arrested and charged with shocking and horrible crimes.
I came to this film as a fan of documentary features, despite not really knowing anything about it; the trailers had been careful to be very coy about the nature of the event that ripped the family apart - a coyness that was not carried into the film. As such I found it very difficult viewing, and many others may wish to avoid this as it is not a fun way to spend 90 or so minutes as descriptions are a bit too graphic at times and some may find the allegations upsetting. The film follows the allegations though to the very end and it is almost consistently engaging - only near the end did I start to feel fatigue; given the subject matter this film is heavy going and could have lost some running time. The film is difficult to describe and, after seeing it, I'm not sure why anyone would really want to see it.
It is not as simple as exposing the truth. If anything the film seems to be pointing out how truth is actually a very easy thing to control - it highlights bad practice by the authorities, weaknesses in the testimonies and areas where mistakes (or lies) had been made. This makes it more difficult - it basically requires us to care about the injustice done to Arnold but at the same time telling us he is a paedophile. To many of us this is an abhoration and it is easy to confuse a paedophile with a child abuser, however many of the things he confesses to in his past are horrid and it made him very hard to get behind. This is a big problem as the film is complex both subject wise and morally, again making it very hard work.
However unpleasant the subject matter, the film is worth seeing to see how one family is destroyed by a witch-hunt that would happen just the same today as it did then. As one of the police officers comments - even being accused of this crime basically means that the accused's life is over. The home movie footage is well used and puts us in a situation where we don't have to rely on the interviews to tell us how things went.
Overall this is a gripping film but one that deals with a morally complex subject that makes it very hard work to watch and is certainly not going to fill a cinema on a Saturday night! Several times I thought about leaving the film as I was simply bewildered by it, not knowing what it was saying, what I was mean to be feeling or even why I had come to see a film about a paedophile who had been accused of multiple counts of child abuse. For that reason I wondered why this film had proved so popular - who, upon hearing the subject matter, thinks that this is the film for them? Certainly the handful of people in the cinema with me (on the opening weekend) seemed to contest to the limited `appeal' of this feature. It is a gripping and interesting film, but I have no intention of seeing it again and doubt I could.
- bob the moo
- Apr 10, 2004