The Wrinkles Of Old Age

The animated Spanish film Wrinkles (Arrugas) tells the story of Emilio (voiced by Álvaro Guevara). Emilio is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and has recently been placed in a retirement facility when his son decides he can no longer take care of him. Or rather, when his son decides that he no longer wants to take care of him.  Upon his arrival, Emilio is greeted by his new roommate Miguel (voiced by Tacho González) who is quite a seasoned resident and more than cynical about the facility, its procedures and his fellow residents. Miguel also tends to use some of the patient’s diagnosis, Alzheimer’s or dementia, to his advantage. For example, a co-patient wanting to use the telephone to speak with her children is told by Miguel that, in order to do so, there is a fee of 10 Euros. In actuality, patients do not have access to a telephone so any associated “fees” do not exist but because of the Alzheimer’s she pays the fee and then promptly forgets what she was doing in the first place.

The relationship between Emilio and Miguel starts off rather amicable and Miguel enjoys having a new roommate and friend in the retirement facility. Unfortunately, as Emilio begins to slip further into his illness he begins to treat Miguel with suspicion. He accuses Miguel of stealing his wallet and then his watch and then, humorously, a pair of black socks. It’s clear to both of them that Emilio is getting worse by the day and despite their efforts to fool the staff that Emilio is “fine”, it’s becoming exceedingly difficult. In an attempt to ensure Emilio does not end up on the dreaded upper floor, where the most ill patients are cared for, Miguel uses the money he has earned from his fellow co-patients to acquire a car and escape from the facility. Sadly, it goes terribly wrong and what they were trying to avoid, happens anyway.

Based on Paco Roca’s comic of the same name, Wrinkles does not gloss over the realities surrounding Alzheimer’s disease or the realities surrounding life in a retirement facility. The once a year visit from your family, the monotonous daily “activities”, the recreation options that are more for show than for actual use (i.e. the always empty swimming pool). While the story has moments of subtle, and not-so-subtle, humour there is an underlying feeling of sadness behind it. Not that the film is trying to make you feel a particular way, it is just presenting you with a realistic portrait of what it is like to be elderly, stricken with Alzheimer’s and living in a designated seniors facility. Wrinkles allows the viewer to determine what affects them emotionally and the intensity of that emotion is dictated by your own personal experience. The film is thoughtful and a touching portrait of  a demographic that is too easily forgotten.

Wrinkles is playing at Vancity Theatre now until June 13th.