“Listen to me, don’t talk,” Jonathan Caouette tells his mother, Renée. “You need to get off the Risperdal. You need to be back on Lithium.” It’s 2010, at the start of Walk Away Renée: he’s home in New York, she’s in Houston, at the group home where he hoped she might find a mix of independence and close-to-round-the-clock care. But the more Jonathan listens to her, the more he realizes she can’t be there, that their living arrangements will need to shift—again. And in this realization, the new film picks up where the old one left off. The son must sort out what to do with his mother.
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The story might seem familiar. Men go to work in Bill Morrison’s The Miners’ Hymns, hard, dark work in coal mines. They also find ways to celebrate their labor, in images from the early days of the UK’s coal industry: crowds cheer union candidates, placards proclaim support for miners and also, offer to insure them “on holidays.” Shots of one throng from a distance dissolve into closer shots, the camera panning faces, revealing that they’ve dressed up, in hats and jackets and vests. Some frames show more recent crowds, women in sunglasses and a reporter with a reel-to-reel tape recorder. In others, children hold balloons and bounce a bit, so excited to be out for the event. A boy turns to look at the camera as it passes. A little girl—her short hair shockingly blond—sits on her father’s shoulder, her gaze steady and, you think, somehow self-aware.
“I love the way that you’re the one I dream of,” says Kati Genthner. She’s reciting a poem she wrote for her boyfriend James, you’re looking at a front porch. Her voice is grainy, a telephone recording, sharing the story of her all-committed love. “The first time he heard it,” she reports, “he actually cried.”
Listening to their father at the dinner table as he “lectured on social ills,” Victor Reuther remembers, he and his two brothers—Walter and Roy—developed the moral and political sensibility that would shape their adult lives. And when they went to work at factories in Detroit, the three of them were moved by the cruel conditions and long hours to try to organize their fellow laborers. Beginning in the 1930s and carrying through the next two decades, the brothers led the labor movement: their efforts form the focus of Brothers on the Line, screening 16 October at Stranger Than Fiction, where it will be followed by a Q&A with director Sasha Reuther.