navigation, see below for text
press reaction

"Earlier in the century, John Steinbeck wrote his famous Travels With Charley, a story of one man's journey with his dog. In 'Pop,' photographer Joel Meyerowitz documents a far riskier ride--a two-week road trip he and his son undertook with Meyerowitz's eighty-seven-year-old father, Hy, who was suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Rather than some Oedipal nightmare on wheels, 'Pop' is the most compelling sort of Father's Day gift.

Meyerowitz's sixty-minute documentary manages to be funny, sweet, dark, disturbing, depressing and inspiring, sometimes all at the same time. Part of the triumph here is stylistic, notably the artful and seamless inclusion of the family's old home movies. Finally, though, much of the credit for the life-affirming quality of 'Pop' must go to Hy Meyerowitz himself, a character in every sense of the word. 'I don't see any market for old farts,' Hy tells his son during one of his more lucid moments. This is less a typical film about a disease and more a loving, haunting look at the end-game of one singular life."

"When you think of PBS' 'Frontline' series, exposes and cold, hard facts spring to mind. You don't think of personal, emotional filmmaking, such as Joel Meyerowitz's 'Pop.'

But tonight, in a programming move that might puzzle and then please viewers, 'Frontline' debuts the celebrated New York--and Provincetown--based still photographer's first film. It chronicles Meyerowitz's Florida-to-New York road trip with his Alzheimer's-stricken father, Hy, and his own grown son, Sasha.

'Pop' is a remarkably moving portrait of then-87-year-old Hy, who'd lost almost all of his memory, yet retained his innate friendliness and humor...

'I knew his wisdom, or street smarts, whatever you want to call it, was still intact,' Meyerowitz said. 'And I wanted to get him out of his assisted-living doldrums and take him on an adventure. In some senses he became my teacher again, this man who was wasted away in some ways. He was able to give me the gift of making this film.'"

"...The hour takes the Meyerowitz men (Hy, then 87,Joel, 57, and grandson Sasha, 27) on a two-week car trip from Florida to New York in 1995, as the old man reveals flashes of wit amid his lapses of memory...

His rambling reminiscences are fleshed out by family home movies that show Hy as a virile-looking, mustachioed young man horsing with the boys. 'Pop' itself is essentially a home movie. Draggy in spots, self-indulgent in others, it offers no experts' opinions on Alzheimer's or insights on caring for its sufferers (an estimated 4 million in the U.S. alone). But the title figure will haunt you nevertheless. 'Nobody saw me, nobody knew me, but I was there,' laments Hy, a former Golden Gloves champ, looking back on his life. 'But your boys saw you,' insists Joel. 'We all saw you.' Now so can the rest of us."

"...'Pop' ... is a filial love poem , driven naturally by the dynamic of Hy Meyerowitz.

Of course, son Joel can't help suppress his formal artistry, so the hourlong film offers some striking images--of stringent Atlantic seascapes, fine low skies filmed through the car windshield, elegant-looking human shadows cast on the side of a stucco building.

But the foreground of this memorable nonfiction film is, as it should be, filled by the irrepressible 87 year-old Meyerowitz. He's a failing but somehow indestructible and enormously likeable little man...

Where many filmmakers doing a film about a loved one end up really telling a story about themselves, Joel Meyerowitz doesn't. He's very present, of course, but never in the way, and, mercifully, he never steps on Hy's wonderful lines. Hy says much that is memorably rich with emotion, nothing more so than: 'My life--it wasn't much, but it was great.'

Thanks to some wonderfully edited and deployed clips from family home movies, we see that life in tender bloom...

In many ways, Pop seems the very soul of optimism. With good reasons to complain, he rarely does. On the contrary, as he says on the phone one day to his wife back in Florida, "To my limit, I'm having what I like.'"

"...this is a sometimes funny, sometimes sad and always poignant portrait of Meyerowitz's father.

Hy...suffers from Alzheimer's disease, but 'suffer' isn't quite the right word. During a two-week car trip from Florida back to their native New York neighborhood intended to trigger memories, Hy free-associates, fumbles and passes on his wisdom, all with endearing optimism.

At times you want to turn off the camera and let the man lie down. But the hour is a loving tribute to a terrific character, fleshed out with vintage home movie clips and photographs."

"Look at it as a delayed Father's Day present.

Public television's 'Frontline' presents 'Pop,' an emotional, poignant tribute to a father from his son.

'Pop,' the first film of acclaimed still photographer Joel Meyerowitz, is a joyous, 52-minute production covering a two-week road trip in which Meyerowitz takes his 87-year-old father, Hy, on a journey from Florida to the New York neighborhood where Hy Meyerowitz grew up.

It's a trip dealing with memories and the loss of memory. Hy Meyerowitz has Alzheimer's. But don't dismiss 'Pop' as one of those down-beat medical documentaries so common on the home screen these days. Pop is more about the heart than anything to do with the head..."

"... Like other high-profile presentations on 'Frontline' this season, 'Pop' is less about investigative journalism than it is about life at the end of the 20th century.

As 'Frontline' executive producer Michael Sullivan says, 'We're always trying to capture the Zeitgeist...trying to do programs that are richly relevant to people.'

'Pop' clearly fits that mandate. Joel Meyerowitz is a long-time still photographer, whose works have appeared in one-man exhibitions in museums around the country...'Pop' is his first film.

In making the film, he hoped to both present a vision of Alzheimer's that went beyond the hopelessness so many families feel when confronted with a loved one's decline into mental darkness, and to bring his father back into the world and revive, if not his declining faculties, then at least the brave and light-hearted spirit his father had confronted the world with."

home + about this story + video + about pop + discussion + joel meyerowitz
alzheimer's links + tapes & transcripts + press + frontline + wgbh + pbs

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation