Directed By Maite Alberdi
Starring – Augusto Gongora, Paulina Urrutia
The Plot – Augusto and Paulina have been together for 25 years. Eight years ago, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Both fear the day he no longer recognizes her.
This film is currently not rated
Despite only clocking in at 82 brief minutes, “The Eternal Memory” makes the most of its minutes with a boldly crippling and intimately endearing look at one couple’s everyday realities with the shape-shifting dimensions of Alzheimer’s. Alberdi’s photography is the key contributor here, establishing from the word go a fly-on-the-wall kind of perspective to her visuals that effortlessly puts the couple’s love and impeccable chemistry on full display, while also harvesting this poignant sense of reality between them that can only take that aforementioned love so far. Because Augusto finds himself losing more about his past every single day, the film has a gripping sense of urgency that conveys his frail mentality and their bond could disappear at any given moment, in turn outlining a value in the gifts of each day that feel so integral towards each of their daily routines. Alberdi not only values the every day interactions between them in current day, with sometimes little to no edits away from such vulnerably personal conversations, but also who the couple were many moons ago, before each of them ever stumbled across one another. With Alberdi’s incorporation of an abundance of stock footage at her disposal, between the couple’s time as respective journalists on Chilean news stations, to home videos of the couple and their love on full display, Alberdi is able to tap into the overwhelming tragedy of this circumstance, without deliberately conveying such insight as an overwhelming narrative. What this does is imbed a value to each of them that proves who they were before this debilitating condition held both of them captive, but beyond that give us the audience a chance to indulge in the barrage of those memories, if only for a few fleeting moments, which is sadly more that Augusto can capably conjure in attempting to recognize a person or a place in photos that now feel so foreign to him. Beyond this, we’re also privy to those moments within Augusto’s life when it all heads south, with moments of him pacing around in the middle of the night and seeing people who aren’t really there. Despite the magnitude of its captures, this never feels exploitative in its intention, instead granting us a second person education to threats and realities that remain persistent to Paulina’s own conflicts with hope, while also articulating a tense and frankly scary reality for Augusto, as closely and capably as we can possibly immerse ourselves in. Despite Augusto’s dependable warmth from Paulina, he’s essentially alone in this overwhelming battle, and with the value of Alberdi’s meaningful framing that she imbeds so subtly but effectively in the balance of abstractions laid at the audience’s feet, we’re left with this unrelenting sentiment that life goes on for others, while it halts in space and time for this man with very few legitimate good days left ahead. The film is responsible for focusing every bit as prominently on Paulina’s plight as it is Augusto’s, but even in doing such cannot converge them in ways that feel respective because they’re so uniquely foreign to one or the other. In addition, the rare but consciencious musical cues and selections for the film are every bit appropriate as they are thought-provoking to the integrity of the sequences they adorn, and the varying styles between lenses adds to a cunning versatility within Alberdi’s unintruding stylistic impulses, which never feel distracting to the importance of the events they’re depicting.
Despite “The Eternal Memory” zeroing in on a compelling conflict that deserves all of the attention in the world for its cause, the scope of its insight remains a bit disappointingly small throughout the duration of the film, in turn leaving very little interpretive insight for anyone unfamiliar with the conditions of Alzheimer’s. While we the audience can experience Augusto’s everyday plights with a jarring and surreal interpretation, we never experience it from a scientific standpoint, with a complete absence of doctors or friends underscoring the opportunity. I wholeheartedly understand that Alberdi’s intention and narrative was to focus solely on the couple enveloped in such, but without a corresponding narrative to what Augusto’s is showcasing, we can only essentially experience it on a surface level. For my money, the film could’ve definitely used another fifteen minutes to parlay an informative essence to the engagement, especially since failing to do so keeps the film from redundancy, which does begin to creep into the experience during the film’s final twenty minutes.
“The Eternal Memory” isn’t quite the fully elaborating and insightful exploration into Alzheimer’s that is desperately needed, but it is an emotionally tender and urgently gripping documentary about one couple’s life-altering paralysis with the condition that grows more impactfully frail with each passing day. With intimate photography, meticulous musical cues and a responsible balance between matrimonial depictions, Alberdi highlights a tensely unforgiving uphill battle for her couple at the forefront of the narrative, but one whose fading memories can’t deconstruct the love between them that withers on.
My Grade: 8/10 or B+