A depressingly real look at aged-care homes, through the friendship of two residents with very different outlooks on life. Wrinkles is a heart-breaking film, which is a difficult, but extremely worth-while watch. Review after the jump.
We first meet Emilio (Tacho González) at the bank where he is the manager – he is declining a mortgage application made by a young couple, and explains he has done this for years, and knows the risks. It turns out that this isn’t reality at all – this is in Emilio’s mind, and the truth his he is suffering from Alzheimer’s (although he isn’t really aware of this) and he’s actually declining to eat the soup given to him by his less-than-patient son, and not a mortgage application.
Much to his despair, he is admitted to an aged-care home where he is roomed with Miguel (Álvaro Guevara), a seemingly sprightly man who appears to take advantage of the diminished mental state of the fellow residents by tricking them into giving him money for the payment of nonexistent services and favours. Through the interactions between the pair we are introduced to the depressing environment of the aged-care home, and we meet many of the residents housed within it, who often have very sad back-stories and are quite unwell. The lounge is referred to as ”the waiting room”, as it seems all the residents do there is sit and wait to die. Worse than the lounge however is the dreaded “upstairs”, where the residents who can no longer care for themselves are sent. It is Miguel’s (and becomes Emilio’s) goal to never be sent upstairs, as he knows this is a death sentence.
While the film is set in Spain, it seems like the aged-care home is something which is very similar across different countries and cultures. Anyone who has been to a facility of this nature will find something to relate to here – it felt so real to me that I could almost smell that distinctive hospital cleanliness mixed with the musky scent of death which seems to be prevalent in these types of places. The residents too felt familiar to me, with a mixture of people trapped in times long past, and others who were mentally quite alert, but had bodies that were falling apart around them.
The treatment of Alzheimer’s in this film is possibly the most realistic portrayal that I’ve ever seen. We meet residents who range from completely not present anymore, to the likes of Emilio who appears quite normal most of the time, but increasingly do things which makes us think “huh, that was a bit odd”. He starts repeating stories, he forgets where he puts things, and in one heart-breaking scene we see him get really angry that his knife won’t cut – he’s actually holding a spoon. It would have been easy to be overally-dramatic with the portrayal of Emilio’s Illness, but instead the film is subtle, showing the decline of his mental state in a realistic and staggered way. The film also doesn’t use the illness as a source of comedy, and while you may smile at a few of the things the residents do, it treats the characters and their illnesses with the highest level of dignity and respect.
This is a film about an aged-care facility and it’s residents, and as such it’s not really a happy story. People go to these homes at the end of their lives when they need a degree of care, and there just isn’t any way to sugar-coat this. I found the film quite upsetting at times, particularly when I saw how the families of many of the residents had seemingly abandoned them, and the residents covered up their families’ absence with weak excuses. I hope I am never so selfish. While it is a somber film, there are some moments of real humour and delight, mostly thanks to Miguel who still has quite the adventurous streak in him.
It is a beautifully made film with touching music, fantastic animation, and editing which had me going “wow” at times. The transition between rooms or the seasons was often so seamless, that it took a moment for me to register what had happened. The pacing is excellent, and it felt like not a single moment was wasted.
Overall this is a truly beautiful and powerful film. This is a film that may make you think twice about not visiting your relative in their aged-care home because it makes you uncomfortable; and perhaps a film that will make you appreciate your health and the health of those around you (particularly elderly relatives) just a little bit more. This is highly recommended viewing – just make sure to take some tissues!
Director: Ignacio Ferreras
Writer(s): Rosanna Cecchini, Ángel de la Cruz, Paco Roca, Ignacio Ferreras
Starring: Tacho González, Álvaro Guevara, Mabel Rivera
Runtime: 89 minutes
Release date(s): Screens as part of the Spanish Film Festival at various times in July[programme].