The Fourth Wall Review: A Provocative Documentary You Can’t Miss

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People have always been fascinated with cults. Long before humans spent countless hours on TikTok and Instagram, there were bold headlines that grabbed our attention. (Remember the newspapers?) In the late 1960s, cult figure Charles Manson emerged. In the 1970s, there was the psyched-up Father Yod and the elusive Jim Jones. In the 1990s, Joseph Di Mambro and Luc Jouret wowed with their doomsday cult, and Marshall Applewhite single-handedly orchestrated a mass suicide along with a comet.


Hollywood never really shied away from trying to capture these stories. since 1973 manson to the most current The invitation and Once upon a time in Hollywood, The audience was glued to the screen. Heck, the next movie. The resurrection of Charles Manson Starring Frank Grillo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) is bound to intrigue.

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But there is something really fascinating, and even necessary, in the new documentary series. the fourth wall, which recently debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival. In an era filled with divisions, opinion news, and extreme political polarization, director Luke Meyer (Darkon, breaking a monster) and collaborator Keith Newton have created an unmissable effort regardless of ideology.

the fourth wall boldly and effectively spotlights the Sullivanians, New York City’s secretive “psychotherapeutic sex cult” that was hidden in plain sight on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in the 1970s and 1980s. Led by founder Saul Newton, it flourished until their dramatic collapse in 1991. Pursuing Keith Newton’s past ties to the group as a child, the duo do more than uncover long-hidden secrets. They create an opportunity to witness both the resilience and the fragility of human beings, and their psyches.


The fourth wall will blow your mind

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“The nuclear family is the root of all evil.” That was Saul Newton’s modus operandi. The enigmatic figure believed that other people should raise their children. No doubt she pointed the finger at how many adults were in therapy, working on their mommy and daddy issues at the time. the fourth wall captures the momentum of The Sullivanians with a sly eye and plenty of grace.

You see, Keith Newton, the writer and executive producer of the fourth wall, He is the son of founder Saul Newton. His mother, Helen, a Sullivanian, is also interviewed in the film, along with many other people involved in the cult at the time, from adults who were children at the time to older adults reflecting on how it all happened.

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Keith Newton’s personal connection to the project supports the public. We want to know how things came to be and how Keith Newton managed to find balance and stability in his adult life. He credits the birth of his daughter, to a degree, and points out that he couldn’t imagine his daughter being taken from his care. But it is the seriousness, curiosity and heart of the man you see on his sleeve that attracts viewers. His mission: expose the truth.

Saul Newton died at age 85 in 1991, the year the cult collapsed. The history of the group has never been told in this way. Rich in detail and packed with balanced reporting, it goes beyond traditional cult narrative tales and draws on the emotional aftermath for both victims and perpetrators. Exposing the guilt, shame, trauma, and ultimately the healing of all involved makes for one of the compelling documentaries to experience this year.

Personal stories elevate documentary

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In the fourth wall, The “intimate and exclusive” access to former members, therapists and children of the group captures a story whose effects span decades. “It was perverse that I was lecturing someone about being psychologically healthy,” a former member of Saul Newton notes in the documentary. We are told that he was married six times and that when he got tired of one wife, he switched to another while the “exes” remained in the group.

“Saul was an ‘idea,” revealed another former Sullivanian. “He was figuring out what your weak points were and going after them.” Meanwhile, another member of the group said: “(Saul) was brilliant and scary, a street fighter, a warrior, a gang leader, he had that kind of mentality.” He also has people right where he wanted them: under his control.

Related: 25 Best Documentary Films Of 2022, Ranked

Keith Newton’s fascination with his past, his father’s influence and how it affected him and others drives this project. It is disturbing and fascinating to learn about the theater company that formed the group and why. Facts, talking heads, and archival footage fill the screen with intent and purpose in this award-winning documentary. it’s amazing it’s terrifying

In the meantime, there is some information about how the group got its name, from noted psychiatrist Henry Stack Sullivan. We also flash back to 1957, when Saul Newton and his wife, Dr. Jane Pearce, broke away from the Sullivan-based William Alanson White Institute to form their own show. Eventually, there were reports that Newton and Pearce distorted Sullivan’s original ideas. The filmmakers are brave and successful in their attempts to capture all of this with great care.

It’s also appropriate that the press learned some of director Luke Meyer’s past and why this project meant so much to him: As a child, he was part of a meditation ashram run by a guru and experienced his own childhood on the fringes. Ultimately, these filmmakers illuminate the terrifying depths of the Sullivanians’ psychological violence. And yet… there is hope, pretty glimpses woven into the deeply human tapestry of The Fourth Wall. This is he Documentary series to watch this year.

the fourth wall, currently at the Tribeca Film Festival, it is a SeeThink Films & Submarine Deluxe production.

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