Reviewed by Fran Dorf —
Written and directed by Tamara Jenkins, The Savages is a nuanced, closely observed film about a middle-aged brother and sister reckoning with their guilt, responsibility, and ambivalent feelings when their long estranged father develops vascular dementia and has to be placed in a nursing home.
Funny and tragic, with amazing performances by the gifted Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney as siblings Jon and Wendy, with incredible work by Philip Bosco as their father, Lenny, The Savages lacks a single false moment. It believably conveys complex characters and their tragic situation without trying to imposing false closure or misplaced hope.
The film is particularly notable for its frank depiction of the horrors of dementia and the messiness of grief, which itself springs from the complexity and messiness of human relationships. For all its tragedy, The Savages achieves real moments of grace in the only way grace can be achieved in such situations, in small moments of compassion and discovery, with bruising honesty, comedy, pathos, and irony. It also makes a wonderful point about the therapeutic and redemptive value of making art.
Fran Dorf’s acclaimed, internationally published novels include A Reasonable Madness (1990/91), Flight (1992/93), and Saving Elijah (2000), which was inspired by the tragic death of Fran’s son, Michael, in 1994. An experienced public speaker and active philanthropist, Fran blogs as THE BRUISED MUSE on life, grief, and everything in between (books, film, art, writing, psychology, culture, human rights, politics, media, poetry, spirituality, etc) at www.frandorf.com.Tags: anger, belongings, funerals, money, Depression, grief, guilt, hope