Not rated, but Gongora really loves the f-word. He uses it casually, especially in flashback sequences. I mean, this is the story of a marriage. They have always been open people. The bigger issue with showing this to younger audiences is the fact that it instills fear that who you are might just disappear one day. But the f-word is the only controversial thing in this movie.
DIRECTOR: Maite Alberdi
I'm really trying to knock these guys out. I mean, nothing like alienating an audience in your intro paragraph, pretending like these blogs mean nothing. No, I'm just trying to write this while it's fresh. Not to pluck some low hanging fruit, but memory is only so good for so long. If I'm writing about a movie about the value of memory and here I am trying to grasp moments lost through a sheer glut of movie watching, that can't be good, right?
I both absolutely love this movie and want to share it with everyone and also think that it is nothing special. The latter thing I said is pretty horrifying, when you think about it. First truth: Alzheimer's Disease is an absolutely cruel and awful sickness that no one should have to suffer. Second truth: This happens to so many people. The first truth, about the Alzheimer's being awful? That's what makes this story beautiful. It is a frank discussion about Alzheimer's, using a loving couple to highlight how insane the entire concept of Alzheimer's is. The second truth is that there isn't much new that is unpacked here. It's a very sad story and the fact that Gongora and Pauli are very charismatic and beautiful people is the only thing that makes The Eternal Memory something that I love. Everything in my body just wants to take this pain away from this couple.
The movie does something that I absolutely would do too, but it isn't really enough. Gongora, the man with the Alzheimer's, led a fascinating life. He was a journalist and an author. He married an seemingly prominent actress and led a life devoted to academic and artistic pursuits. But as a man riddled with this disease, it is difficult for him to do basic things. He often will argue with his reflection, not recognizing the person in the mirror. From that perspective, it is the most painful thing to watch. Honestly, when he's talking to the reflection in the door, one can't help but think of all that this man achieved in his life and now is reduced to this. But as a criticism, The Eternal Memory fails to do one thing. It had a choice to stress the universality of a condition like Alzheimer's (at least as much as it could have by giving us context of how many people are affected or seeing other couples) or by saying this is an important, unique tale by showcasing someone who should not have been affected by this, but was. I know. I'm putting unfair expectations on something that is ultimately supposed to be a personal tale.
But as a personal tale, that's where it works. I know that I want this movie to be bigger and somehow change the narrative of how we treat those who are losing their personalities as days progress. Instead, we get this absolutely gorgeous story of Pauli and how she continues to love a man that is less and less responsive to even the most basic of stimuli. Alberdi probably had little control over how this film came out. I choose to believe that the film is told chronologically. After all, Covid-19 is the third act and it would make sense to see the degredation take full force during this time. But Pauli, for as sad as she is to see Gongora go (I'm going to keep calling him that because it's my favorite pet name ever), she never seems to lose that romantic love. Often, the story of Pauli is about love that endures despite conflicts. It's the love that comes with a contract. If a spouse starts falling apart, you have to be with them or else you would be a monster. But the coolest thing about The Eternal Memory is the feeling that she gets to be with this man who loves her, despite not remembering her very well.
I hate that I have to make the next comparison. I don't want to do this because there's no version of this that makes me look good. A certain element of this very personal and emotional moments is Fifty First Dates. Yeah, I hate me too. I have the option to erase that sentence --this whole paragraph even --and I know that I'll still hate myself thinking it. The narrative we keep getting about the effect of Alzheimer's is that it is grueling torture. It's not like The Eternal Memory doesn't hit that beat. It a thousand percent does. But the majority of the movie, which makes the painful part all that more painful, is a love story where Pauli makes Gongora fall in love with her every day. There's something profoundly sad about their love. Most of this movie is him smiling at Pauli, which is sweet in its own way. But a lot of that smile is Gongora faking it so that no one would question the fact that he has no idea what is going on. But he seems so happy to be around Pauli for most of the movie. I know that the movie only gives us a peek behind the curtain of bad days, but the good days seem so good.
The real challenge would be what we saw in the last few minutes, when the bell doesn't go off for Gongora. For the most part, Pauli's interaction with Gongora is one that reminds him that he's a happy man who led a fulfilling life. But the fear behind the whole thing are the days when, no matter what Pauli does, she can't get Gongora to make the connection that the two of them are married. It's frustrating because I know how I would handle these things. It seems like Alzheimer's is all about hope. That hope has to be toxic, right? There's parts where Gongora is talking about the politics of Chile in such depth and expertise that you have to wonder why he would be considered at all an invalid. But the end reminds us, that's a very special day. The fear that comes with being an invalid is haunting. The fact that Pauli continues to act and to work is mindboggling, She has to. For her own sanity, maybe for her finances, she has to work. But the unsteadiness of it all would drive me wild.
I love this movie and I want to give Pauli a big hug. But also, I don't know if this movie is everything it could be. It is so unfair to throw any stones at this movie because I'm sure, to Pauli, this is the exact movie she wants it to be. But I just feel like we're peeking into something far more in-depth than we're getting here.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.