Married couple Fred (Elliot Gould) and Susan (Judith Roberts) have lived in their country home for over fifty years. As varying illnesses start to take their toll (Susan, in particular, has become almost completely dependant on live-in nurse Veronica), their two children, Bob (Fred Melamed) and Carol (Stephanie Roth Haberie) are forced to step in and arrange for their transition to a full-time home. However, with Fred’s resilience to change and desire to hold on to what’s left of his relationship with Susan, the move won’t be an easy one.
Writer and director Richard Ledes constructs a warm-hearted, tender portrait that avoids artifice and ridiculously non-sensical catastrophes. The uncomfortable, yet realistic scenario Fred, Susan, Bob and Carol are met with, and subsequently forced to deal with in the two days we spend with them, is one that rings true in a way that will enable audiences to connect immediately with each individual.
The fact that Fred, the home owner and Susan’s main carer, is the one who deals with the move the worst feels in keeping with his old-fashioned personality and desire to take care of both himself and Susan until the very end. Despite struggling himself with the varying obstacles the house presents (stairs, in particular), he is keen to hold onto the memories contained within those four walls, the relationship he has with his wife and a sense of freedom that would be lost in the facility Rob and Carol have in mind.
It’s the script scattered with light touches and infusions of real emotions and reactions that creates that much-needed relationship between the characters on screen and the impressionable audience. We’re kept as outsiders from start to finish, watching these characters come and go, argue and make-up and make those difficult decisions that come with age and illness. Ledes’ soft, withdrawn, yet lingering and upfront direction achieves this beautifully, and the imagery created through Brian Rzepka’s cinematography (the hand-held technique works well here) enables a stand-out juxtaposition between the unpredictability of the wide open outside and the contained familiar inside to flourish.
Elliot Gould’s performance adds another level of depth to Fred that further enhances the audiences involvement and empathy felt for a character we know very little about, yet root for nonetheless, and represents an underused talent able to convey more emotion through fleeting expressions, movements and sighs than some actors have the knowhow to do. Support is solid, but as Fred is front-and-centre for the majority, the success of these performances don’t feel as necessary.
Fred’s uncertainty both about the seriousness of the illnesses facing himself and Susan, and the desire to maintain a level of control and discretion in his life is something that will likely rings true with audiences worldwide, but the film’s overall approach, intention and execution is too light to elicit more than the brief sorrow required for its running time, and won’t leave a permanent impression in the mind. It’s acceptable due to the severity and pertinent issues handled, but not in a cinematic world where dynamic narratives are key to a film’s ultimate potency.