Fred Won't Move Out

Fred Won't Move Out


Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

Fred (Elliot Gould) is a grouchy, senile old man; he's increasingly infuriated by the cruel juxtaposition of his wife's severe dementia with his own increasing memory loss. Watching him barking angrily at his wife Susan, when she can't grasp the telephone (let alone speak) for a simple conversation is horrendous, understandable and heartbreaking. He's cared for by Victoria - a simple but excellent carer - highly trained to watch out for the signs.

It's growing clear that Susan (and probably Fred) need more specialised care. The film is a series of meetings with Fred's family in dealing with how to arrange and break this to the ever-more-forgetful patriarch. In Elliot Gould, screenwriter/director Richard Ledes has found an excellent proxy - Gould delivers a masterful performance full of subtlety and skill. I found myself forgetting about actors acting, and saw a cruel divine joke played upon mostly decent, interesting people. It's achingly sad.

The film does not delve into melodrama, but it's an honest take on the difficulties of dealing with increasingly disabled people. It clearly documents the deathly fear and simple pleasures during various rituals: the day-to-day manhandling of washing, cleaning, feeding, and gently being presented with and placed into furniture. It's a film almost entirely within a single household; the story is mostly told in communal chit-chat during food preparation, fetching of groceries, eating and singing as a family.

What it also does with great skill is present the moments of lucidity that the forgetful Fred still posesses, while his mind closes around him. He remembers the joyous rituals of music collection - the smell of a freshly unwrapped record, the liner art and notes. "It meant something." It still does! Ledes employs long takes occasionally, most notably during musical therapy, his invisible camera drifting in and out of focus between the participants, a curious conflation of pain and joy on each character's face.

The film spares us the gritty details. It's not that kind of film. It's more of a melancholy poem about the horrific irony of losing one's identity in memory; all the while the remnants of the family share their memories of better times. It's said that "an unexamined life is not worth living." What Socrates probably didn't consider is what happens when a life can't examine itself.

Reviewed on: 20 Jun 2012
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A family contemplate what to do as the older generation lose their ability to live independently.

Director: Richard Ledes

Writer: Richard Ledes

Starring: Elliott Gould, Fred Melamed, Stephanie Roth Haberle, Judith Roberts, Mfoniso Udofia, Ariana Altman, Robert Miller, Richard Ledes

Year: 2012

Runtime: 74 minutes

Country: US


EIFF 2012

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