Great Photo, Lovely Life (2023)

Great Photo, Lovely Life (2023)

A photojournalist confronts her grandfather’s sexual abuse history in this unrelenting investigative documentary

The Very Best

8.0

Movie

United States of America
English
Documentary
2023
AMANDA MUSTARD, RACHEL BETH ANDERSON
Amanda Mustard
112 min

TLDR

There’s a chance that watching this could feel retraumatizing for certain viewers, but it’s an uncomfortable conversation that needs to happen.

What it's about

After years of dedicating her life to revealing the truth, renowned photojournalist Amanda Mustard returns home to Pennsylvania to investigate the sexual abuse convictions of her grandfather.

The take

Biographical documentaries tend to depict exceptional people– people who are so great that everyone wants to know about them, and people who are so terrible that they serve as a warning. Great Photo, Lovely Life depicts a serial sexual abuser in photojournalist Amanda Mustard’s family, able to get away with nearly all his crimes each time he skips over state lines. It’s not an easy film. It’s deeply uncomfortable. There are certain interviews that will trigger anger, despair, and bewilderment over how someone so evil can remain out of bars all his life. Great Photo, Lovely Life doesn’t provide any easy, comforting sequence as a balm to sexual abuse survivors around the world, but it’s an urgent reminder of the consequences of maintaining silence.

What stands out

For obvious reasons, Great Photo, Lovely Life is tough to watch. The subject alone is hard to talk about, because of how deeply evil sexual abuse is, and how much pain it creates. For many people in the world, this pain goes unacknowledged, but the immediate response has been to sweep it under the rug. It’s absolutely courageous then, for Amanda Mustard to do this. There’s a certain groundedness to her approach– Amanda rarely portrays herself, rarely narrating, instead focusing most of the runtime primarily on the survivors and their words, and letting every person, including her family, speak for themselves. It doesn’t make for an easy film at all, and the film doesn’t provide a straightforward answer to justice, but Amanda Mustard’s unrelenting honesty makes Great Photo, Lovely Life an important watch.

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