Watch this! “You’re Looking At Me …”

You’re Looking at me Like I Live Here and I Don’t “Lee Gorewitz lives in a care facility for Alzheimer’s patients, but she is not simply waiting to die. She is full of curiosity and frustration, struggling to remember herself and make sense of a world that is falling away from her.”

This movie will punch you in the face, in the very best of ways. As Mary Louise Parker from Weeds told me in the PBS intro, there are no doctors, no experts, and it is basically from the perspective of patient. Yes, that point can be argued a million ways from Tuesday, but it feels right. So, onward. You’re Looking At Me… films the day-to-day life of Lee, a patient living in an Alzheimer’s home. Read more here.

Someone likened the film to a Beckett play, which may have filtered how I watched it but damn, the language feels like it. Lee’s language is focused meaning inside of seeming gibberish. Word salads strung together with intention and clear emotion. If you just pay attention the meaning is there. The connections are slant to a neurotypical mind but communication is there. It makes sense. It was beautiful.

“Did you take care of daddy or is your face so small?”

“Any truth you wanna take, but its truth.”

Shot by shot of empty rooms and no movement might seem sad or heavy handed but the place exists that way. It is clean and repetitive. So that may feel uneasy, but doesn’t feel manipulative and sets a great contrast to Lee’s liveliness and personality. Within the hospital environment, I found myself trying not to judge the employees in Lee’s life. It’s hard to listen to people who are, hmm… used to an environment? Is that an ok way to put it? It’s a tone that seems condescending even if it’s not meant to be. That tone mixed with group activities that make me squirm and want to rip my face off. There has to be better theatre and performance for people in homes and/or with disabilities, right? Specific and tailored is important for any audience. But why in these circumstances does it always sound so condescending?

It makes me think of my grandmother who is 102 yrs old and in a home now. She is cognitively and physically together (incredible actually for 102) and I still hear people talk to her like a child or without the prosody of truthful concern. It is infuriating and I hope people don’t talk to me like that when I’m old or that I don’t talk like that to anyone. This was not across the board in the movie AT ALL, just occasionally stuck out at me. One of my buttons I guess.

“I don’t know why, I don’t know what I do”

Of course there is a moment of bawling my eyes out, I knew it was coming; we all know it was coming. But I was surprised at how it did happen. And I think that speaks well to the art of the film. I was paying such close attention throughout the movie to Lee, because that’s where the focus was.  All of a sudden I realized I was breathing in the same pattern as she was. I noticed this at a point in the movie where she started to cry and I could not help but join. I was sobbing in the same breathing pattern as the character. A goddamn textbook Greek catharsis. Maybe more correctly, visceral empathy for another human. This wasn’t a crybaby moment for the poor old forgotten/forgetting woman. It felt so present. It was a shared moment with someone I’ll never meet. That’s like pretty good art and stuff.

“I wouldn’t call it sad, I would call it get outta my way.”

My grandmother does not have Alzheimer’s but she is 102 and can’t remember some stories or dates. She doesn’t fully answer when I ask her about Woman’s Suffrage or electricity or cell phones. That used to make me sad, I wanted to get her perspective on change, pass down an anecdote or two. But maybe this time in her life isn’t about remembering stories from the past. It is not about me taking it in. It should be about her in the present. How can her life be full, now? And at the very least, how can we keep clear communication with an aging mind.

For an op-ed from the director about making the film go here:

For more info on the movie go here:

You can get it right now at itunes or amazon!

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