The Unicorn documents the lives of the Grudzien family, with all of their tumult, sorrow and resilience, and reflects on the creative world of music.
An incredibly prolific songwriter, Peter Grudzien composed, performed and recorded The Unicorn LP (1974) in his childhood home in Queens, NY. It is now a cult classic. Peter would eventually compose and rearrange more than 900 songs throughout his lifetime, but the toll of mental illness cut short any hope of commercial success or recognition.
Now 65-years-old, Peter Grudzien and his twin schizophrenic sister, Terry
share their dilapidated childhood home with their nonagenarian father, Joseph, in Queens, New York, struggling each day to maintain a precarious balance on the margins of society. When not battling outbursts of paranoia, Peter, the more functional of the pair, spends his life struggling for recognition as a musician – billing himself as a “gay country singer”. He enjoys limited notoriety as an 'Outsider Musician',
but the promise of commercial success stops there. Peter lives inside of his music, surrounded by records, instruments and home-recording gear, using the chaos of his life and mental illness as a springboard for his musical ideas. He tests his new
material, from love songs for Johnny Cash to Country ballads of dehumanization, on stage at a local gay karaoke bar.
Peter's sister Terry has spent most of her adult life sealed off from the world, either in psychiatric wards or group homes, escaping into a fantasy world provided by movies, music, and the refracted lens of her own imagination. Covered in an ankle-deep layer of discarded trash and beauty products, her bedroom bears testimony to the debilitating cocktail of psychotropic
drugs she has consumed for decades. Starved for affection, she is on a heart-breaking search for a husband.
Peter and Terry’s 99 year-old father Joseph lives in the family home’s ground floor apartment. He struggles both with the burden of age and memory, recalling a childhood working in the coal mines at age twelve and the police beatings he endured at the height of America’s labor struggle
during the 1920s and 1930s. Terry remains terrified of him, while Peter tries to help him out as best as his mental illness will allow him to. At the twilight of his life, Joseph openly regrets having ever had a family.
As Terry’s mental and physical health unravels, Peter tries to care for her and his father as best he can. Peter's relationship with his father becomes increasingly fraught, and he begins to fear he will lose the only home he has ever known. Through all of it, Peter continues composing and recording music, his most important life sustaining force.