The Genius of Marian (2013) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • The Genius of Marian follows Pam White in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. Her son, the film maker, works with her as she attempts to write a book that tributes her mother, the artist Marian Steele. As Pam's family comes together to support her, they must also prepare for the new reality that Alzheimer's brings. The film is a powerful work of art with many visual textures, interweaving observational film making with super 8 family movies, Marian's paintings and old photographs. The Genius of Marian is both an intimate look at a much feared illness and a loving portrait of the meaning of family.

  • A woman with Alzheimer's disease and a filmmaker decide to create a tribute that showcases the family, using the nostalgia and magic of super 8 home movies and vintage film photographs.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • logline: The Genius of Marian is a deeply intimate portrait that explores the tragedy of Alzheimers disease, the power of art and the meaning of family. The film follows Pam White in the early stages of Alzheimers disease as her son, the filmmaker, documents her struggle to hang on to a sense of self.

    THE GENIUS OF MARIAN is a visually rich, emotionally complex story about one familys struggle to come to terms with the changes Alzheimers disease brings. After Pam White is diagnosed at age 61 with early onset Alzheimers, life begins to change, slowly but irrevocably, for her and everyone around her. Pams husband grapples with his changing role from primary partner to primary caregiver. Her adult children find ways to show their love and support while mourning the slow loss of their mother. And Pam begins a journey from fear to acceptance.

    Just before her 60th birthday, Pam had begun writing a tribute to her own mother, the artist Marian Williams Steele; its title The Genius of Marian. As Pam loses the ability to write, her eldest son Banker, the filmmaker, begins to record their conversations allowing the project to continue. Emotionally open video diaries and interviews from this time period capture a pivotal time for Pam. As a psychologist and social worker herself, Pam is surprisingly articulate about her current emotional struggles, memory loss, and confusion. The eloquent thoughts we hear in her interviews and video diaries are seen in sharp contrast to her inability do simple tasks like set the table, tie her shoes, or pick up a ringing telephone.

    The film follows the family over the course of three years, weaving together past and present, to paint a complex and powerful contemporary portrait of motherhood, chronic illness and legacy.

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