Tarnation review

DIY filmmaking comes of age with Jonathan Caouette's autobiographical documentary, a harrowing collage of abuse, mental illness and family dysfunction culled from more than 160 hours of material. Shot for the meagre sum of $218, Tarnation uses home movies, photos, reconstructions and even answerphone messages to chart the director's strange, turbulent adolescence. It's also the story of his mother, whose teenage experiences of electroshock therapy left her a manic depressive with schizophrenic tendencies.

Like Capturing The Friedmans before it, Tarnation places one family's private grief under the microscope. The result is just as hard to watch, with surreal montages and on-camera confessionals that tread a fine line between therapeutic catharsis and florid self-indulgence. Still, there's no denying this is a remarkable, personal work that proves ingenuity, resilience and compassion can triumph on the slenderest of budgets.

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Available platformsMovie