Assisted Living

Ultra-low-budget slice of life that takes place in an assisted living facility (read: old folks home) in Kentucky. Todd (Michael Bonsignore, quite good) is a slackerish orderly who doesn't seem to care one whit about the often-senile "clientele" he works with until one lonely woman (Maggie Riley) comes to depend on him to contact her long-lost son in Australia, who may have simply abandoned her or who may not even exist (we're never told).

What works about this film is its verisimilitude – and there's a word I don't get to use very often. Shot in an actual senior center, with most of the real-life clients/patients/prisoners serving as background talent, Assisted Living can either be called a documentary with a fictional story weaved through it, or a dramatic feature with documentary elements.

In either case, Greenebaum succeeds at making this milieu look like hell on earth. His film is, in some ways, a variation on One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Todd's heroics – if you can call them that – are meager at best, but the intent is the same. Assisted Living makes a strong argument against banishing the elderly to these kinds of facilities, where they are basically sent to die, alone in a sterilized environment where the word "care" is very loosely defined.

The film's only drawbacks are Marcel Cabrera's inconsistent cinematography – many shots are lovely, even poetic, while others are out of focus or poorly lit – and its short length (a mere 78 minutes). Greenebaum needs no more time to tell the story that he decided to tell, but surely he could have made good use of an extra half-hour to develop his characters further and create something more substantial. But maybe it's better that he didn't: 78 minutes was more than enough time spent in this depressing environment, and if nothing else, this film has swayed me against growing old anywhere besides my own home.