Film accurately portrays Alzheimer’s – but will it inspire advocates or drive them away?

Movie poster from Academy Award winning film "A Separation"

To prove to you how lacking I am in movie trivia, I did not realize that “A Separation” won the Academy Award for best foreign film until I went to see it yesterday.  Having read some reviews, I knew a bit of what to expect; in my opinion, the excellent reviews of this Iranian film were all accurate.

While there are many themes coursing through this film – all heady, all intense, many tragic —  a not insignificant piece revolves around the father of one of the main characters who has Alzheimer’s.  His disease is fairly advanced and the son is absolutely devoted.  In fact, that devotion is a large reason for the discord between him and his wife.

In this regard, the film made we think about two things.  Number one, I was amazed that I actually could watch this movie, as usually films depicting someone living with Alzheimer’s are just too tough for me to sit through. And frankly, they often don’t ring true.  But, the actor’s portrayal was so realistic, the film showed the day-to-day frustrations so clearly, the acts of desperation were so plainly obvious, the sad and scary scenes seemed so real, that I felt I was watching something very authentic.  It was not a pretend drama.

Number two, I wondered if this image of the man with Alzheimer’s – clearly someone whose cognitive ability has declined quite significantly — harms or helps our advocate’s desire to create public awareness about the disease.  Will this kind of portrayal lead people to avoid the topic entirely or will it open their eyes to the human story that is Alzheimer’s?  I’m hoping the answer is the latter.

This part of the story was robust from so many different aspects – among others, it dealt with family devotion and conflict, multi-generational issues, caregivers trying to do the right thing, but not knowing enough and/or not knowing where to go for help, and the importance of creating an environment that includes, not ignores, the person with Alzheimer’s.

It would be interesting to examine all of the images of Alzheimer’s over a period of time – in movies, in books, in news stories — and see just how they all shape people’s feelings about the disease, their desire to help and donate and their desire to advocate for the cause.

All very interesting, don’t you think?

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2 Responses

  1. s mishra says:

    Have not yet seen this movie but can identify with most of what is written here about the movie, as I am going through most of what is mentioned here.My dad is at an advanced stage of alzheimers.Luckily,my wife is very supportive and takes full care of my dad,so far-touch wood !To compliment her efforts,we have kept with us one of our distant relatives from our village,who is again very devoted towards my dad.Inspite of all this,there are times when you really don’t know what to do…more when I actually see the movie…

  2. H. Nguyen says:

    I take care of a sister with dementia. What was depicted in the movie was truthful from the sudden soiling problem to the “not speaking anymore”.
    I have seen my sister turning from a bubbly independent woman into a totally dependent person. What struck me was how sudden things could fall apart. In the movie both the wife and husband who took care of the father said “he would say if he had to go” but that day he soiled himself. Then he stopped talking ( the son was glad hearing just a few words from him).
    My sister went from talking full sentences to a few words and a few nods or head shaking…. She has become more withdrawn…
    The son was unflinchingly devoted when he didn’t get bothered that his father did not recognize him (he said I know he is my father).
    Strangely enough, when I casually mentioned this story asking my sister whether the father should choose to care for the old father or the daughter, she said “the daughter” without a second thought.
    It is a moving story especially when the daughter was so demure.
    Getting help to care for a person with dementia is not an easy task. That person can be very unpredicable( wandering, hallucinating…)
    I found this out the hard way… My doctor gave me a book entitled 36-hour Day which says it all…

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