My friend Mary Tyler Mom wrote the most exquisite piece on caregiving for aging parents. It’s candid, tragic and perfectly articulates the complete and utter bullshitness that is our health care system in the good ole US of A.
We don’t talk about the ugly side of aging much. I know the term “sandwich generation” is now part of our cultural vernacular, and will continue to gain popularity as the Baby Boomers age out of retirement and into the ugly end of life stuff we don’t want to discuss. Plus caregiving isn’t sexy (unless it’s for my mom who is offering up used lingerie).
However, while it’s not incredibly popular in Hollywood, I’m pleased that there exists some representation of those ill as well as their sometimes reluctant caregivers. If I have leanred anything from Mary Tyler Mom, it’s that caregiving can be isolating; whether it be in a movie or a support group, hearing someone say aloud your darkest thoughts can sometimes be more validating than ten bazillion dollars spent on counselors’ co-pays.
Still interested? Below are a few movies you can stream courtesy of Netflix that ring true to life and offer an intriguing plot line.
1. A few months ago I watched Nebraska (2013), starring Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, and Bob Odenkirk. Dern picked up a “Best Actor” award at Cannes and the film was nominated for six, yes six, Academy Awards. It’s phenomenal.
Dern plays a father showing the early signs of cognitive impairment (no diagnosis offered) and Forte, his son, takes his father on a fool’s errand from Big Sky country to Nebraska to shut the old man up. The film is simultaneously humorous and depressing in its depiction of confusion brought on by the aging process as well as family members’ responses to new and unpredictable behavior from their loved ones.
Whether the plot hits close to home, or you are a sympathetic soul with a sense of humor, this bittersweet movie is worth your eyeballs’ attention.
2. Steel Magnolias (1989) will forever be one of my top ten movies ever made; armadillo cake, helmet hair and undying devotion to loved ones make this emotional drama such a fabulous (and exhausting) way to spend an afternoon.
A close-knit group of six Louisiana women come together at Truvy’s (Dolly Parton’s) beauty shop to laugh, cry, drink orange juice and shoot birds. The film follows them through the years as they take care of one another through good times (weddings, babies) and bad (unexpected deaths, abusive relationships). It’s a movie that highlights the fact that life is beautiful even when it’s ugly.
It’s freaking perfect.
3. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1994) stars a young Johnny Depp and even younger Leo DiCaprio.
Meow Depp’s character, Gilbert, is charged with caring for his morbidly obese mama, cognitively impaired seventeen-year-old brother (DiCaprio) and little sisters, whilst working at a dead end job in a sad little midwestern town. Cue a love interest and the inner turmoil that follows weighing wants vs. responsibilities.
Both intense and lovely, the film does an excellent job illustrating the many conflicting thoughts of a caregiver.
4. If you haven’t seen Silver Lining Playbook (2012), you should sit yourself down on your couch and immediately stream this eight-time Oscar-nominated sucker. Bradley Cooper portrays a bi-polar protagonist just released from the psych ward and into his parent’s care. Jennifer Lawrence, AKA the queen of everything awesome, plays a recently widowed 20 (30?) -something who has her own set of coping issues. After meeting meeting Cooper, JLaw’s character offers to help him reunite with his wife in exchange for pairing up with her for a dance competition. Obviously.
Through their odd relationship, they come to care deeply for one another AND enable each other to move through their respective pain and accept their own neuroses. It’s a charming movie that addresses mental illness and promotes conversation in a sensitive and respectful manner.
What did I miss? Please share your recommendations below!
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