Tarnation (2004) - Rotten Tomatoes

Tarnation (2004)



Critic Consensus: Using music and home video footage to great effect, Jonathan Caouette has made a very personal and moving film.

Movie Info

Part documentary, part narrative fiction, part home movie, and part acid trip. A psychedelic whirlwind of snapshots, Super-8 home movies, old answering machine messages, video diaries, early short films, snippets of '80s pop culture, and dramatic reenactments to create an epic portrait of an American family travesty. The story begins in 2003 when Jonathan learns that his schizophrenic mother, Renee, has overdosed on her lithium medication. He is catapulted back into his real and horrifying family legacy of rape, incest, abandonment, promiscuity, drug addiction, child abuse, and psychosis. As he grows up on camera, he finds the escapist balm of musical theater and B horror flicks and reconnects to life through a queer chosen family. Then a look into the future shows Jonathan as he confronts the symbiotic and almost unbearable love he shares with his beautiful and tragically damaged mother.more
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Documentary, Drama, Special Interest
Directed By:
Written By: Jonathan Caouette
In Theaters:
On DVD: May 17, 2005
Box Office: $0.4M
Wellspring - Official Site

News & Interviews for Tarnation

Critic Reviews for Tarnation

All Critics (110) | Top Critics (38)

Nearly impossible to watch, thoroughly unpleasant yet strangely arresting.

Full Review… | April 15, 2005
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic

A soul-baring scrapbook of a film, its audacity surpassed only by its tragedy.

Full Review… | March 24, 2005
Arizona Republic
Top Critic

Although aggressively unconventional, it's never pretentious.

Full Review… | January 21, 2005
Toronto Star
Top Critic

An astonishing multimedia diary ... all accompanied by a scrolled family history that is as harrowing to read as a ransom note.

Full Review… | January 21, 2005
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

The movie climbs inside your head and rattles your consciousness.

December 10, 2004
Denver Rocky Mountain News
Top Critic

In making beautiful peace with a difficult past, Caouette has delivered a promising vision of a future.

Full Review… | December 10, 2004
Denver Post
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Tarnation


A little too self-indulgent at times to be considered a "documentary", but all in all a very creative and moving look at life.

Once you let go and just go along for the ride...you are off on a journey into the psyche of a family in turmoil.

It's not always an enjoyable journey, but it is one in which (after being led through a gamut of emotions) you are ultimatley led back to the point of origin, which is love.

A great reminder of the fact that while we can not choose our families...we are (ultimatley) in control of just how much we allow them to adversely effect our lives as adults.

One of the tough questions that we all have to deal with at some point is: At what point do you let go of all of the negative family baggage (that we all carry to some extent) and decide to start living your own life and making decicions based on doing what is best (and most helathy) for you?

These are some of the hard choices in life and this film really makes you think about them.

Robert C

Super Reviewer


[font=Century Gothic]"Tarnation" is a documenary made by and about Jonathan Caouette. Its starting point is his mother's lithium overdose in 2001 and then reviews the facts of his mother's life, followed by his own, mostly through photographs, 8mm film, and odd film clips(It took me ten minutes to get the "Rosemary's Baby" reference but still have no idea about "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.") as fed through and spit out by a computer.[/font]
[font=Century Gothic][/font]
[font=Century Gothic]"Tarnation" is an exercise in amateur narcissism that only serves to make the viewer uncomfortable in a shared voyeurism. The only sequences of merit are when he explores his mother's mental illness and what it is to care for a mentally ill person.(How Caouette made it out of such a situation as a stable adult is only partially explained by his moving from Houston to New York.) [/font]

Walter M.

Super Reviewer

Bits of unbearable information brought to us by Jonathan Caouette, a man who truly has had a horrific lot in life. It results in a deranged drug user who captures all of his grief through home movies and other forms of media to shock the viewer.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

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