RIDM, Nov. 13: The Patron Saints & more

A sobering doc about life in a nursing home is our pick of the day from the ongoing documentary festival.

The Patron Saints
There have been countless documentaries about elder care facilities, but none quite as grotesquely human as Brian M. Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky’s The Patron Saints, an unflinching, unsentimental look at the patients of an unidentified home for the elderly and disabled. Taking a page from direct cinema, the film offers a look into the lives of these individuals without judgement — or framing of any sort, other than a periodic narration by the youngest patient, a bed-ridden middle-aged man who chuckles through most of his descriptions of his fellow patients.

Think it sounds heavy? That’s not half of it. There are Alzheimer’s patients asking the camera where they are, a woman who waits tirelessly for a son that may not exist, a quasi-catatonic man who repeatedly asks his daughter in garbled Hungarian whether he’s going to die and a variety of similarly-depressing characters throughout the film. The long, static takes and generally unflinching attitude to mental illness and dementia sometimes bring the film into the territory of dubious Korine-like misery porn, but the filmmakers bring enough levity to the material to offset its few oversteps.

Although not entirely devoid of laughs (there’s at least one scene with a dorky mustachioed gentleman caterwauling his way through Lionel Richie’s Hello to a dispassionate crowd) , The Patron Saints is a pretty sobering look at the banal-yet-terrifying world of nursing homes. Those looking for impish seniors doling out pearls of wisdom need not apply. ■

Cinémathèque Québécoise (335 Maisonneuve E.), 7:30 p.m. and Friday, Nov. 16, Excentris (3536 St-Laurent), 6:30 p.m.

Other Cult picks screening today: The Fruit Hunters (see our print edition for interview with director Yung Chang), Cinémathèque, 5:30 p.m.; Only the Young, Excentris, 9:15 p.m.

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