This is not about the representation of old women in feature films but about the questions I ask myself – a woman aged 81 – in response to Chronic.
My first reaction was ” yet another male carer! Why?” When the majority of carers and hospice workers are female why feature a male end-of-life home carer?
Why is the documentary style mixed with a kind of thriller mystery style where information about the carer’s psychology is hinted at and not exposed ? and when the last scene is as shocking as it is gratuitous.
Reading 36 years old Franco’s interview there were still more questions I asked myself.“It’s a beautiful job they do,” says Franco. “But nurses are either shown as loving angels or terrible people, and I wanted to show something in between.” I wonder what films he is talking about. About end-of life and death films, has he seen Ballad of Narayama, Mother and Son? or A Woman’s Tale? Departures, A Song for Marion, Volver, Iris, Hold Back the Night, and of course Amour?
He says that the film originated from his experience of the death of his grandmother, the role of the professional carer – a female – and his feeling of being excluded. He carries on to ask his father: What kind of person is doing that job? Does the characterisation of the male carer helps us to understand the kind of person who does that job? Does his story enhance the value of this job because the carer is male as opposed to the armies of female carers who are ignored? Or does it concentrate the attention on a man whose motives are ambiguous ? Nearly all the reviews admire the performance and the actor. Henry Barnes in the Guardian: ” He has experienced losing a loved one to a painful illness and for him the lines between the personal and professional are starting to blur… Chronic asks us to reassess how we approach the end of life: how we can prepare for it and leave it with less pain. ” Does it really?
Why add the assisted suicide issue in a film that insists on the minutiae of everyday caring for the dying and attempts to address the family/carer relationships?
Finally why are the critics so uncritical? At my age I have known many deaths: at home, hospital, hospices. Sometimes family members do care at the last stages, sometimes a more or less competent and understanding professional carer does. This film does not in any way reflect my experiences. It certainly instructs us on how to wash bodies or corpses, how to change a sheet when the patient cannot move. It did not make me think about carers for the dying, about death or how to prepare for it, or assisted suicide. I recommend both Amour and A Woman’s Tale on these subjects.