Distant Constellation


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

"This is an intimate and contemplative film that seeks to gently observe and listen."

All sorts of things are going up and down in Shevaun Mizrahi’s documentary feature debut. A large building, home to its workers, that is gradually climbing against the sky, while the residents in the retirement home that will lie in its eventual shadow are coming up – or down – to the end of their lives. Or a puckish pair of the home’s residents who are seen ‘joy riding’ in the lift, going up and down like a couple of schoolkids, as they put the world to rights.

These sorts of connections are the things you notice because Mizrahi gives you time to do so – although once or twice she risks grinding to a halt. This is an intimate and contemplative film that seeks to gently observe and listen, watching carefully as the character of the individual residents emerges, while allowing each viewer the space to extrapolate what they will from these encounters. No names are given, until the credits, but each person’s story is distinctive. From the woman on whom the Armenian Genocide has left an enduring mark – to the point where the fear lingers so greatly that she asks that her real name not be used – to a man whose days of puppy love may be behind him but who proves there’s life in the old dog yet.

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There’s a sense of timing passing differently for the elderly, they may not have many years left on the planet but they have the luxury of the moment – one woman falls asleep mid-story but we see, as she wakes and says, “I drop like that”, we see it’s just part of life for her now, her pace at odds with the many clocks that seem to be scattered around the home. Even a former photographer, now stymied by failing sight and mental deterioration, has lost little of his purpose, keen to take the photo of a fellow resident even if he can’t see through the viewfinder. Meanwhile, across on the building site, though glimpsed only briefly at either end of the film, the workers are constantly being reminded of the time or urged to achieve things on a schedule.

Mizrahi lets the sounds spill in, in particular, the lonely whistling of the wind, which throws up snow flurries towards the end of the film. It might be cold outside but within the walls of the home there’s warmth and companionship if you care to listen.

Reviewed on: 01 Nov 2018
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Memories of the residents of a Turkish retirement home.

Director: Shevaun Mizrahi

Year: 2017

Runtime: 80 minutes

Country: US, Turkey


London 2017

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