Do we ever really know our parents? If we were suddenly given the chance to know everything about them, would we take it? Veteran filmmaker Doug Block had every reason to believe his parents’ 54-year marriage was a good one, so he isn’t prepared when, just a few months after his mother’s death, his father Mike announces that he is moving to Florida to live with his secretary from40 years before, Carol "Kitty" Duffy. Doug’s years of video interviews with his family and his discovery of his mother’s diaries provide the raw materials for this film’s reexamination of his parents’ marriage.
The Block family is unique, but it is also an archetypal Jewish family. In the film, they function in a Zelig-like manner, buffeted by the transformations in political and social consciousness that took place in the last half of the 20th century. Doug’s parents and their three children move through the 1960s and 1970s indifferent ways: his mom, Mina, discovers psychoanalysis and feminism, while Mike, a smart engineer, retires to his workshop, a place of serenity.
Spanning 60 years and three generations, the exquisite home movies, snapshots of romance, interviews with Mina, excerpts from her diaries and current footage of Mike’s second wedding to Kitty all create a sense of time warp. Ultimately, 51 Birch Street eloquently shows what can happen when we question our most fundamental assumptions about family and reveals, like a gift, Doug’s reconciliation with his 83-year-old father and his realization that his parents are flawed, beautiful and oh so very human."