Elderly residents of a Toronto nursing home cope with loss, loneliness and other heartbreaking challenges of growing old, as the home's staff work tirelessly to provide an environment of dignified, compassionate care.
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At Baycrest, an old-age home in Toronto, we follow a social worker as she talks to residents, particularly Max, Claire, Ida, and Rachel. The film opens on Claire's birthday, she's 89; Max, a tiny cheerful man, is her close friend. Rachel is lonesome, missing her son, complaining he rarely visits. Ida relies on memory for her solace. Helen has no memory and doesn't recognize her daughter; her moods swing. Murray keeps his cap on and likes women. Staff members bring medication, provide care, and offer small talk. Memory is fleeting: Claire re-experiences the death of a close companion several times, each time without remembering her previous grieving. Lives are circumscribed. Written by
King takes his camera inside a Jewish nursing home, and focuses on a group of residents with varying degrees of dementia and Alzheimer's. Although DYING AT GRACE deals with the end of life, I found this much more depressing. Perhaps too depressing, as these people struggle with their own lack of recall. When Claire repeatedly forgets that her best friend has died, she has to relive the sorrow of that discovery over and over again. The staff at the facility seem to be doing the best they can, but there is little you can do to alleviate the confusion and suffering of a deteriorating mind. There are some happy moments (Fay's unbridled joy over a visit from her son, who crassly boasts about the value of the watch he's gifted to her) but overall this was more uncomfortable than poignant. However, it left me with empathy for these people and their loved ones. I very much liked the social worker who the film seems to pivot around.
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