As I sat watching, or, to put it more accurately, nestled my face in a comforting shoulder whilst trying to battle tears, I began to regret my film choice. My self-condemnation did not last long, as I realised what a breathtaking movie I’d chosen. However, the feelings of deep sadness did persist. It is not often that I sit through troubling films, but ‘Wrinkles’/ ‘Arrugas’, a Spanish film focusing on the lives of two older people in a nursing home, had spoken to my growing interest in neurological conditions and residential care. The film, which I found immensely upsetting, made me wonder whether I’d made a mistake in letting my academic interests influence my social life. I wondered whether my bolshy postdoctoral drive had pushed me into an unpleasant evening, when I could have spent it in a more uncomplicated activity.
However, ‘Wrinkles’ – based on a comic by Paco Roca – is not unpleasant, even if it is heart-breaking. And where it is heart-breaking, it is inspiring. The emotions that the film stimulates are ones that I needed to confront. Though Ignacio Ferreras’ work depicts a bleakness in residential care, it is not damning of the homes that it represents, nor the human beings who manage or work in these places. Neither is it judgemental of those people who take the important, and necessary, decision to place their loved-ones in residential care. Instead, with a quiet respectfulness, Ferreras allows us to take a glimpse into the imaginary lives of Emilio and Miguel, the very three-dimensional characters in this two-dimensional animation. Miguel is not an object of pity, but a sneaky con-artist, who spends his days purloining money from his fellow residents. Through expertly-crafted characters, the film allows us to explore the powerful feelings of guilt that the rest of us feel about older people having to relinquish their independence and freedom by entering residential care. It guides us through the apprehension that younger people feel about the prospect of getting older, of losing ‘our marbles’ and our friends. It grapples with ideas of suicide, of regret about being a burden. The film’s perspective of ‘upstairs’, the upper floor where older people with more advanced dementia are segregated from the other residents, is a reminder of the multi-layered nature of elderly care. Miguel, for instance, disengages himself psychologically from ‘upstairs’ – as if ignoring it will make it go away – whilst witnessing consecutive roommates making their slow and, it feels to him, inevitable, way up there. Though the film does not wallow in unceasing misery, it does not indulge in whimsy or try to make light of an issue that is undoubtedly worrying to us all. It is apologetically unsentimental, whilst being evocative and abiding.
The film is jarring precisely because it pushes some unpleasant buttons – societal regret, fear, empathy, grief and ignorance. However, it is also important for the same reasons. However, I did not enjoy this film purely out of a sanctimonious desire to force my eyes open. The film, despite its lingering moments, haunting melodies, sad stories, and thoughtful animation, is quietly uplifting. I will not spoil these stirring moments by revealing them. They are what you should find by viewing the film for yourself.
If you do, pop a hankerchief in your pocket.
For more views, see Rotten Tomatoes here