I found a way. We all found a way, I suppose!
This one has been hanging around on my “Films I Want to Watch” Youtube Playlist for a while, so I figured that as I have my first day where I have nothing planned for the first time in a while, I might as well review a film, especially as I have been a bit slack recently.
“Dementia” covers a subject that terrifies me, memory loss. The thought of gained a mental illness, such as Alzheimer’s, absolutely horrifies me and worries me a lot. That’s what will make this film uncomfortable watching for me, and therefore an unusual choice.
I’m not going to lie though, despite my initial enthusiasm for it, the comments on IMDB, such as calling it predictable, make me less excited than I normally would be. I didn’t open any of the threads, but the fact that there is one that has a title suggesting that they predicted what would happen in the first 15 minutes, doesn’t fill me with hope.
War veteran George (Jones) suffers a stroke whilst help a teen fight off bullies. He wakes up in the hospital to find a young lady called Shelby (Harrison), she turns out to be his granddaughter that he hasn’t seen for many years. She helps take care of him but a few days later he is hostile towards her, claiming that he doesn’t know who she is. Later that day Michelle (Klebe) arrives from the hospital to check that George is ok, and she is soon approached by the family to care for him full time.
Although things start off seemingly well, George starts questioning everything Michelle does, and calls her a liar when she makes claims to his family about him wandering off. George accepts that it is part of his condition and forgives her.
George shows Michelle some pictures from his time in the army and he recalls a story about how he escaped a POW camp, whereas someone else couldn’t take it and bit their own wrists open to end his suffering. Michelle is visually upset at the story but tries to hide it. That night George sees Michelle cleaning a knife and covered in blood, but when he wakes up the next morning he is the one covered in blood, and his cat is shredded to pieces in the kitchen. He again accuses Michelle of being a liar to his family, but with no evidence to suggest that it wasn’t him, they take Michelle’s side.
The family soon starts to leave and Michelle suddenly takes a much darker turn, but is George simply imagining everything?
So is it as predictable as those on IMDB suggest?
I have to say that despite not being a completely negative experience, I have to agree with those on IMDB that the film is unpredictable, and without revealing what the ending is (obviously), as soon as the flashback scenes take place, as well as the story that George tells Michelle about his former fellow soldier, it did feel inevitable about how the film would end, and sure enough it does.
The main problem with the film is that you don’t really feel sorry for George. You find out that he was physically abusive towards his wife, disconnected from his kids, and a bit of an arsehole during his youth. When you’ve got a film in which someone is being tortured, you have to really position that person as someone who is likeable, because if not then you’re not going to be emotionally impacted when that person is in pain.
I know some will look at him and say that an elderly person shouldn’t be treated like this, but just because they’re old it doesn’t mean that they’re not an arsehole that shouldn’t end up being punished for what they did earlier in life.
It’s quite interesting how easy it is to manipulate the family of someone who is suffering with symptons similar to Alzheimer’s disease. For example, there is a scene in which she tests George in front of his family about how to make a cup of tea. At first he boastfully claims that he knows how to make a cup of tea and initially refuses, but he then struggles to describe the full process (from getting up to make it to the drinking of the tea).
One element that I did like is that you’re never entirely sure what is just in George’s head and what isn’t. For example, the scene in which George notices Michelle covered in blood and cleaning a knife is then countered by her walking in to check on him and her clothes are perfectly clean, and that he himself is covered in blood in the morning. You do question whether she simply got changed quickly, or whether George has imagined, made even trickier to figure out given that is all countered by some scenes in which Michelle starts acting very strangely. There is an element of mystery about it, although it does feel a bit forced in places.
You have to really ask yourself if the situation is realistic or not. Would you offer a job of caring for your father/grandfather to someone who you had literally only just met a few minutes prior, and who hadn’t shown you any ID?
The soundtrack is far too loud in “Dementia” and is often higher than at a higher volume than the speech of the characters, and the lighting in some scenes in also terrible. In the scenes set at night, you can’t really see what’s happening. This is exceptionally problematic towards the end of the film, in which pretty much the entire conclusion to the third act is in near pitch black.
Whilst not an awful film, “Dementia” never really gets going and the seemingly interesting aspects of the film just didn’t feel like they had their potential filled.
The problem is that George is an arsehole. Ultimately the story is about him getting his comeuppance for being an arsehole, and because of this you don’t care about him or feel sorry for him.
If you are going to watch it then don’t get too excited because it’s just not that exciting.