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:: The Savages

The Savages tells the story of two siblings, Wendy (Laura Linney) and Jon (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who must band together to care for their elderly father, Lenny Savage (played by Philip Bosco). The siblings have practically avoided their father for a number of years, citing a difficult family history - which included the domineering nature of their father - as the reason for their shunning him in adult life. But with an ailing dementia getting worse by the day and the death of his girlfriend, there’s no one left to look after poor old dad except Wendy and Jon.

The two of them initially try to put Lenny in a nursing home, but Wendy gets obsessed with the idea and concludes, after thorough research, that there are better nursing homes around and that dad must have the best one. Jon is not so enthusiastic as his sister, and sees the whole episode as a distraction from what he really should be doing, which is writing a book on Brechtian Theatre. His pragmatic approach is often starkly contrasted with Wendy’s new found empathy for her father and the conflict of interest often produces some funny moments.

Depending on where you look, it’s either billed as a drama or a comedy, but I would say it’s neither; rather, the best way to put it would be to say it’s a light hearted way to look at a dreary subject. It’s not overly dramatic and it’s certainly not a laugh out loud comedy, but the realistic nature of dealing with this sought of situation is often quite humorous. And indeed that’s part of the appeal; the simple fact that it deals with a subject matter that doesn’t often find its way onto the big screen, yet it’s something almost everyone has had to deal with in some way. The fact that I went to see it with my father, who had to deal with the nursing home ordeal with his parents not so many years ago, meant there were many layers of appeal for both of us and certainly lots of angles to relate with.

The Savages is an absorbing watch; it holds your attention from start to finish but never bombards you with action or heavy dialogue. In fact, the one time it threatens to break out into an emotive dramatic explosion (when Jon is talking about life and death outside the ‘stylish’ nursing home that they try, unsuccessfully, to get Lenny into), it is diffused with just the right amount of comedic intervention to keep it realistic, because comedy in life does often come from those realistic dark areas, and this film deals with both spectrums extremely well.