Greetings again from the darkness. Dementia and/or Alzheimer’s Disease have touched most every family by now; a fact that works to the detriment of this film from writer-director Jay Giannone and co-writers Erich Hover and Eric Watson. The opening screen informs us that it’s based on a true story, and in fact, it’s actually similar to countless family stories around the globe. Of course, this doesn’t minimize the stress and strain and frustration and pain that this causes for family and friends, and it likely helps some understand that they aren’t alone in this battle.
Dating back to the 1970 TV series “Mission: Impossible”, and her 1980’s movie work (VICTOR VICTORIA, the excellent CHOOSE ME, and classic CLUE), Lesley Ann Warren has long been one of my favorite actors, and here she again shows her feel for the material and each scene she’s a part of. She plays Anne, wife of Paul (an excellent Brett Cullen, Thomas Wayne in JOKER), and mother of three sons: Tony (played by director Jay Giannone), Art (Sterling Knight), and Jesse (writer Erich Hover). The story picks up with Jesse coming back home to Omaha for a visit after moving to Los Angeles for work and adventure. Dad is late picking him up from airport, but mom is thrilled to see Jesse. Brother Art recently dropped out of college, and brother Tony is just so busy, it’s hard for him to find time.
It’s immediately obvious to Jesse that something is off with dad, though everyone else just seems oblivious or accepting of his diminishing abilities each time dad answers with his favorite line, “I’m fine.” Denial is, of course, an easy initial response and obvious issue for loved ones, and mother Anne puts on an optimistic front with an ever-present smile … all while living in fear of losing her life partner. Once Jesse forces the family to discuss the situation and have dad properly evaluated, the finger-pointing commences, until acceptance can be found … all natural steps in the process.
Jesse tries to find common ground with his father via an old pickup truck and they take a fishing trip as a final hurrah. Again, all understandable reactions, while not necessarily being the wisest. There is nothing especially wrong with the film, although a stronger actor in the Jesse role could have helped, but mostly it plays like a film that should have been made 30 years ago when information on dementia was a bit more difficult to come by. Today, we look at this family and can’t help but judge them for not reacting sooner to keep the dad safe and reduce their own stress. Jesse’s relationship challenges (an underutilized Taryn Manning) seem misplaced and over-simplified, but we do witness what is possibly the worst on screen bar fight in the history of cinema. It’s the clips at the end that sober us up quickly … home movies of a vacant-eyed dad holding his first grandchild. Does he even know who he’s holding? We can’t be sure, but that’s the horror of this disease.
In select theaters and VOD on July 29, 2022