Must Read After My Death is an intimate look into the dark heart of the American family. This documentary’s only agenda is to expose the raw emotions of a family teetering at the brink of a complete meltdown. It is insightful, heartbreaking and even frightening.

The film is directed by Morgan Dews and assembled from an extensive collection of home movies and audio recordings. This collage of archival material introduces us to Allis and Charley, a seemingly typical family in 1960s America. They have three sons and one daughter.

Charley has a job that takes him to Australia for four months out of the year, so the couple purchases Dictaphone recorders to stay in touch. The husband and wife are frank and open in their relationship, encouraging each other to find solace in the company of other men and women during their extended separation. Trouble brews on the horizon.

What starts as a habit in which a separated family can feel closer together, becomes a cathartic exercise in which all members of the family can voice the ways they’ve grown apart. The recordings become confessionals. They range from melancholy to bitter to hopelessly desperate.

Late in the film, much of the conflict comes from the institutionalization of one of Allis and Charley’s sons. Misdiagnosed, their son spends years away from home. He goes from being a frustrated boy to a young man who has disassociated from his family and is brimming with rage.

I hope this powerful film, the 2008 Grand Prize winner at the International Documentary Festival in Marseilles, finds the same audience that lauded Capturing the Friedmans.

Must Read After My Death is distributed by Gigantic Releasing. Interestingly, they are the first distributor to open first-run films simultaneously in cinemas and online. Gigantic is able to do this through their Gigantic Digital broadband theater.

Gigantic Digital streams in ultra high quality, commercial-free and at a modest price. $2.99 gets you a three-day, unlimited ticket. Do take note that cities in which the film is or will be playing in theaters will be blacked out so that the digital release does not compete with cinema bookings.

Grade: A

Must Read After My Death releases in select theaters Feb. 27.