Memory for Max, Claire, Ida and Company Allan King

I once saw a film about an old age home at the Hot Docs festival; it was careful, adhered to facts and figures, was extremely thorough,and failed completely to express the plight of its subjects. Allan King rights this injustice with Memory for Max, Claire, Ida and Company, which doesn’t offer outside information at all; it just drops you into a nursing home and lets you draw some devastating conclusions. The subjects are people at the end of their lives who are fighting off the usual complaints: loneliness due to abandonment by their families, the failure of their bodies and minds, and the well-meaning but remote staff who can’t give them the attention they need. We’ve heard these things factually but King stresses them experientially, by hardwiring you into the patients’ point of view and making you live their lives over an extended period. By the end, you’ll know what it’s like to spend your days in the same place doing the same things, having friends die on you, and lacking the mental powers to remember traumatic events so that you have to be painfully reminded over and over again. King comes from a time when documentary meant something other than glib shots at presidents and McDonalds, and he gives his subjects’ lives a dignity and gravity that would be unthinkable by a current director. Like Frederick Wiseman, he submerges his personality to the point that he learns from the subject and doesn’t just deliver a sermon. No speech could make the point of this movie better than the movie itself, because of King’s careful artistry and genuinely humane view of people waiting for the end. (Allan King Associates Ltd.) (Allan King Associates Ltd.)