Filed under: Reviews
"When you are 80 you have the privilege to forget whatever you want." - Murray Cornish
Memory is an actuality drama surrounding the lives of residents living at Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care in Toronto. It presents us with an open window to see into the existence of a few patients and to follow them through their everyday lives over the course of four months. The film draws on its subject for spontaneity and compassion, in order to present on-screen the real-life humanity that plays with all the intriguing elements of a structured script. It reveals its subject exactly how they are -- compelling and honest -- leaving the viewer to surrender to an array of limitless in-the-moment possibilities. It does not include a collage of random clips or interviews like a traditional documentary to aid the audience's understanding, nor does it use a narrative stream through the feature-length film to pull the events together. It ever-so-simply allows us to explore the world of dementia and understand more clearly how memory is affected by age by watching it first hand.
The film highlights three main residents: Max Trachter, Claire Mandell, and Ida Orliffe (which the title suggests) and brings Helen Mosten-Growe, Fay Silverman, Ruth Kogon, Rachel Baker, and Murray Cornish into the spotlight as we follow them through their everyday lives at Baycrest. It begins with Claire's 89th birthday party and we see her best friend Max and dear friend Ida celebrating with a bright birthday cake and lots of photographs. They love to sing, and it's a beautiful moment as they pose for pictures. We meet others slowly, witnessing tender issues and emotions. We are able to see closely their conditions and begin to notice the individual memory loss and related characteristics. The film incorporates friends and family who invite us to further understand their own personal stories and those of their loved ones. By illustrating their obstacles through feelings conveyed within conversations, we become more aware of the human being that is now under daily professional care.
Over the course of the 112 minutes, viewers will have the chance to meet several patients who all radiate with their own uniqueness. You will get to know Ida, a very articulate conversationalist who insists a picture of her husband is hanging up along the hospital walls and travels each corridor in search of the photograph. Rachel can hardly recall any details of her past and you'll have the opportunity to see her family struggle to fill in the gaps. Claire receives tragic news over and over again, but is forced to re-live it each day to the next because she cannot seem to remember. These are just a few of the many stories that fill our hearts during Allan King's feature length film.
With the help of a liaison named Beverly Zwaigen, viewers watch as patients speak with passion about their feelings of love, loss and loneliness, friendship, and frustrations and obstacles, and dive into personal experiences. They continuously reach out and pull back with no rules or limits governing their actions, as the film is capturing sensitive moments as they actually happen. The faces we see are going through an unrehearsed series of real-life events. Much like real life, there are many unforeseen and unpredictable circumstances that fill Allan King's film with suspense, curiosity, and hope.
This beautiful film is incredibly brave and honest. It moves with an organic nature through a steady progression of occurrences from each person and their guests that are intensely personal and vulnerable. Over the course of the film, we become attached to the lives on screen and feel their emotions with them. We cheer for their triumphs and we become engulfed by their sadness. After being invited into the personal space of a few compelling strangers and experiencing a rainbow of emotions, these courageous people are bound to take your breath away.
"We found them to be both lucid and indomitable; expressing with wit and passion, feelings that speak to everyone about what it is to be truly human." - Allan King
Memory for Max, Claire, Ida and Company -- which also appeared at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival -- is screening at the 2005 Vancouver International Film Festival on Wednesday, October 5th at 6:40pm at Granville 7 Cinemas Theatre 2 and on Sunday, October 9th at 3:00pm at Pacific Cinematheque.
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