Critics Consensus

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



Total Count: 103
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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.


Critic Reviews for Tarnation

All Critics (103) | Top Critics (36)

  • There's no doubting the deep love Caouette feels for his troubled mother, nor his achievement in forging such a rawly emotional film from his own traumatic experiences.

    Apr 19, 2005 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Tom Dawson

    Top Critic
  • Nearly impossible to watch, thoroughly unpleasant yet strangely arresting.

    Apr 15, 2005 | Rating: 2/5
  • A soul-baring scrapbook of a film, its audacity surpassed only by its tragedy.

    Mar 24, 2005 | Rating: 4/5
  • Although aggressively unconventional, it's never pretentious.

    Jan 21, 2005 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • An astonishing multimedia diary ... all accompanied by a scrolled family history that is as harrowing to read as a ransom note.

    Jan 21, 2005 | Rating: 2.5/4
  • The movie climbs inside your head and rattles your consciousness.

    Dec 10, 2004 | Rating: B+

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