The Dalys of Astoria were the perfect '50s family: Their home was modern and neat; Dad was an executive at a cannery; Mom socialized with the other smart ladies in town; and they had two beautiful kids-- bouncy big boy Jeff and Molly, the little sister he adored.
But the picture book dream was shattered when it became clear that something was wrong with Molly's development. And so, following the best medical advice of the day, Molly was institutionalized at the Fairview Hospital and Training Center in Salem. What's more, the girl was, by Mom's edict, forgotten; the Dalys had another child -- a healthy boy -- and Molly receded into memory.
Well, Jeff never entirely forgot his sister. And after his mother died, and then his father, he discovered evidence of her whereabouts and set about tracking her down and, finally, reuniting with her.
His story of loss, confusion and reunion is told in "Where's Molly?" -- a handsome and overwhelmingly emotional film that played at the recent Portland International Film Festival and returns for a regular engagement at Living Room Theaters. And I don't care who you are or how tough you think life has made you: This film will get you blubbering like a baby... read more
Although Jeff's own quest is moving, it's the story of his dad, Jack, that most amazes. He looked like a
stereotypical square peg, and he seemed to acquiesce to his wife's edicts against the mere subject of
Molly. But he frequently drove from Astoria to Salem to visit his daughter. And when authorities asked him
not to come back because the visits upset the girl, he devised a means to see her anonymously: as one of
a troupe of traveling clowns. The notion that this white-collar, straight-arrow man would don makeup and a
wig and crazy clothes just so he could stand and see his little girl is a titanic instance of selfless love. And
the film hits you with more than one such shot to the gut.
Rendered in truly gorgeous photography (Daly is a professional video cameraman), the film in its final
passages gets a little bogged down in advocating the rights of family members of the institutionalized. But
it never stops wringing your heart. It's the rare movie that makes you want to rush out and hug everyone
ELIANNA BAR-EL - Willamette Week 2.14.07
When Jeff Daly was 6 years old, his younger sister, Molly, just shy of her 3rd birthday, was taken away. In the mid-'50s in the small town of Astoria, Ore., it was a disgrace to have a child anything short of perfect. Molly wasn't perfect.The family doctor delivered a shocking and damaging verdict: Molly was "profoundly retarded." According to one family friend recounting details of the culture, "You didn't educate these children, you warehoused them." Where'sMolly is a poignant documentary recounting half a century of time lost between a brother and a sister, and the measures taken to ensure this kind of story never has to be told again.
DAWN TAYLOR - Portland Tribune March 2007
The closing of Salem’s Fairview Hospital in 2000 opened up a number of unpleasant cans of worms – in particular, information about the thousands of children and adults who’d been warehoused there for decades after being diagnosed with disabilities.
Many patients grew up in Fairview without knowing that they had any other family. Filmmaker Jim Daly’s search for his younger sister, Molly – whisked away with no explanation in 1957 – led to this superb documentary that chronicles not just his discovery of his long-lost sibling, but the appalling way that society has traditionally treated citizens with even mild disabilities.
Archival footage of Fairview (opened in 1908 as the State Institution for the Feeble-Minded) and interviews are interspersed with Daly’s recollections of how his search led to finding Molly in a Hillsboro care home. Their reunion is tender, and Daly’s film is both heart-wrenching and educational.
PORTLAND INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
Where's Molly? Since 1957, when he was six years old, Jeff Daly kept asking that question. When his sister Molly was three years old, she suddenly disappeared from their "perfect" family home in Astoria, Oregon and never returned. His parents refused to talk about her, or explain her disappearance. Daly was left to wonder about and mourn the sudden and mystifying loss of his only sister. It took him 47 years to find out that his sister was sent to Fairview Hospital and Training Center in Salem. For decades up until 2000, it was the common destination for children and adults with developmental disabilities. His sister was one of thousands of "Molly's" placed in institutions across the country. Often, they were forever separated from family members by the belief that closing the door and not looking back was best for everyone. It was not until the death of his parents that Daly discovered that he has a sister and that she was still alive, prompting a search and reunion he could never ha ve imagined. Daly's personal, heart felt film tells a moving story of family reunification, changing attitudes about the care and rights of the mentally disabled, and of the hope that for other families, the value and meaning of life is not judged by capability, but by spirit and love.
MARC MOHAN - The Oregonian
"WHERE'S MOLLY?" -- It's one thing to be aware, in a general way, of the archaic attitudes toward, and corresponding treatment of, mentally disabled Americans in times gone by. It's another to follow one heart breaking story out of the thousands that could be told. Jeff Daly's documentary "Where's Molly?" delves into his own family's secrets and lies to provide a microcosm of the confusion and pain caused by ignorance and fear toward the mentally ill.
In 1957, when Jeff was 6, his sister Molly, three years younger, was institutionalized by their parents at the Fairview Hospital and Training Center in Salem. Doctors told them that she was severely retarded and had no chance of anything like a normal life, so the Daly family excised Molly from its memory.
Fast-forward nearly 50 years, and, following the death of his parents, clues emerge that send Jeff and his wife on a quest to determine if Molly is still alive. The movie has about as happy an ending as possible in this situation, but it's still a story of a family destroyed by their society's inability to treat a retarded child as anything but an object of shame. And, though Fairview is closed now, it's still a story that's surely anything but unique.
The Oregonian - Friday, March 09, 2007
"Where's Molly?" TV videographer Jeff Daly's film tells the story of how his Astoria childhood home was shattered when his younger sister was diagnosed as develop mentally disabled, institutionalized in Salemand forgotten at the insistence of his mother. Decades later, his nagging memories of the playful little girl lead him to find her living in a group home in Hillsboro. It's an emotionally staggering and beautifully photographed film that loses a little in the final minutes, when it turns from memoir to political tract. But thatdoesn't really matter. If there's a heart pumping blood inside your rib cage, you'll never forget this story.
“Rendered in truly gorgeous photography, it never stops wringing yourheart.” – THE OREGONIAN
In this extraordinary and moving documentary, Jeff Daly delves into his own family’s secrets and lies to provide a microcosm of our treatmentof the mentally ill. In 1957, when Jeff was 6, his severely retarded younger sister Molly was institutionalized by their parents and excised from the family memory. While his parents refused to talk about Molly, Jeff was left to wonder and to mourn the sudden and mystifying loss of his only sister. Now, 47 years later, Jeff finally learns the truth to the family secret that kept him from his sister in a reunion that will warm your heart and give you hope for the future of “less than perfect” people like Molly. A handsome and overwhelmingly emotional film, WHERE?s MOLLY pulls you in close. It’s the rare movie that makes you want to rush out and hug everyone you love.