His soft style gets good access and, even if he undersells the challenge with some of his presentation, the subjects don't
This is the second part of a series that Theroux did looking at the challenges of when what should be a "loving" relationship really becomes one which is more about caring for the other person. The first film was about children and this one is very much about partners who suffer from dementia. The style of film is the same and the approach is the same – soft, friendly, good-humored and just let the subjects be themselves. As with the previous film, this took me a minute to get used to as I have been watching some Herzog documentaries recently and the two styles are of course very different.
Theroux style works pretty well here though and the only problem I thought that came with it was that yet again his 4 sentence conclusion at the end of the film was a bit too glib and easy compared to what we had seen. However for the most part the friendly presence worked well because it is really just about showing the people and the couples to give the viewer an idea of what it is like. For some of the subjects it is kind of "easy" to take because we have seen very, very old people fading mentally and, while it is sad, it is sort of easier to accept when it is right at the very end of their long lives. However seeing it in one half of an active couple who have been together for decades, or to see it in a middle-aged mother with a younger daughter etc I found very impacting. While some of the people appear to be coping (ie they can speak and move around no problem) the film helps understand by spending time with their partner together. Particularly I felt for the woman in her early 60's whose dentist husband had forgotten about their relationship and saw her as a friend and nothing more. It is really hard and the film not only shows us but lets us see what this actually means to the family.
Theroux does push a little bit but is generally soft on the subjects because he really doesn't need to. I would have liked for him to have done more to push harder and force some of the relatives to really face the hard questions they have coming, but he does talk about them a bit so not a big problem that he doesn't. Generally this is a sad film – even with the soft tone it is still pretty frank about the challenge of someone you have spent your life with really having only basic memories of that life. It is not an entertaining film but it is an engaging one.
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