The Mole Agent (2020)
Not rated. For a movie fundamentally about elder abuse, the movie is really very tame. The movie dances around some pretty innocent flirtation, with the notion that perhaps one of the residents in the nursing facility might have untoward intentions towards the protagonist. It can get mildly depressing at times, which should be taken into consideration. But the tone is light, so don't really worry. Not rated.
DIRECTOR: Maite Alberdi
It's kind of like a cute old James Bond who discovered that he was like James Bond in his eighties.
Part of this whole movie kind of feels fake. That's really cynical of me, but the movie reads more like an elaborate prank show than it does a formal documentary. One of my hidden treasures is Windy City Heat. I know that it isn't a movie that is discussed in a lot of circles, but it is the result of a long-running prank on a socially-bizarre gentleman named Perry Caravello. He's given a series of missions, Perry digs himself into this story that is both heartwarming and depressing at the same time. The Mole Agent, I hate to say, kind of has a very similar feel to it. Part of me thinks that this entire film is absurd. Is there a detective agency that contacted a documentary crew and said that they should get this old man to investigate this nursing home? Was there a nursing home that really wanted a documentary filmed at their location? I mean, I read up on this movie in The Guardian (just now, because I didn't want to dig myself too deep) and this is a documentary that took a very different turn than expected. But it all feels rather...engineered.
But I have to write with the assumption that everything that I watched was authentic. What kind of comes out of this is a really small documentary that's actually very heartwarming. I started this by saying that Sergio is this James Bond-like hero. Sergio is this guy who was raised to be a proper gentleman. In a world filled with functioning adults, Sergio is under the radar. He is just average. Now, there's a depressing undercurrent to this idea. In a world like a nursing home, Sergio comes across as this heroic figure. He's an Adonis, given liberties that the other members of this society don't. I would do the whole "Men want to be him; women want to be with him" thing, but it seems like there are no dudes in this nursing home. Sergio quickly rises to the role of Most Eligible Bachelor, despite the fact that Sergio is kind of dealing with his own stuff. From what I read on the Guardian, the movie is successful because of the surprises, and I suppose that is the most interesting part of the movie.
As with-it as Sergio comes across, juxtaposed to the other residents, he's still an 83 year old man. He has the problems of an 83 year old. He is mourning the death of his wife. He misses his family. He also seems incredibly lonely. There's something about Sergio that conveys the notion that he hides his loneliness because that's the way he was raised. In terms of his psychology, Sergio sees this overwhelming sadness that comes from end of life issues with the people around him and deciding to take care of the people around him. He has boundaries. He's not going to indulge the attention of a woman who has planned their marriage, but he's not going to embarrass her either. He instead befriends those people who have no one else in their lives. Sergio condemns the audience of the film, demanding that they visit their aging loved ones instead of blaming institutions for problems.
And that's what Sergio kind of sells in this story. He has this confrontational, but respectful relationship with Ramulo. But Ramulo is so removed from the world of nursing homes. Ramulo is so used to seeing the worst of people. He gets paid handsomely if the nursing home is failing the client's family member. He can't help but hoping for the worst case scenario. But Sergio comes from a world where the world is filled with good people. He wants this scenario to work out positively. And Sergio instead finds problems that he can start to solve. He finds the value of talking to other people and dealing with their neuroses as a peer, not as an institution. Because it seems like the workers at this nursing home are trying their best. Maybe it is because of the cameras and I have to acknowledge that I'm pretty cynical about a lot of things. But Sergio, as a member of the community, can make a far greater impact than those throwing big parties. Yes, there should be big parties. Yes, it is sweet that the workers do things to help the residents get through the day, but it really feels like a drop in the ocean. There are some residents who have real problems. But Sergio is filled with so much empathy that he can't help but infect others.
So, is it a great movie? The actual direction is pretty meh. It seems a little contrived. But the accidents that happen over the course of the movie are actually very heartwarming. I liked it, even though I acknowledge that it isn't a great film. Sergio himself and the residents of this nursing home are the ones that intrigue me, not the movie itself. Yeah, I should give the movie credit for shifting focus. So it ends up being heartwarming, if not flawed.
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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.