The Elderly (2022) Review
Directors Raúl Cerezo and Fernando González Gómez gained plenty of attention last year with their road trip from hell film The Passenger (La Pasajera). Now they’re back with The Elderly (Viejos) which opens ominously with a radio newscaster talking about a heatwave that’s setting record temperatures across Spain. As she listens to the radio an elderly woman takes her meds and gets ready for the day ahead. Then calmly steps off her balcony as a neighbour across the street calmly watches.
That woman was Mario’s (Gustavo Salmerón, The Titan, V/H/S Viral) mother, and in the wake of her suicide, his father Manuel (Zorion Eguileor, Lost & Found, The Platform) begins to show signs of dementia. This leads to the old man moving in with Mario, his pregnant wife Lena (Irene Anula, Money Heist, Sky High), and Naia (Paula Gallego, Alpha Males, Serve and Protect) his daughter from a previous relationship.
As the temperature continues to rise, the film gives us frequent updates and tensions among the family begin to grow and boil over. Manuel in particular becomes more hostile, to the point where informs the others that “You‘re going to die tomorrow . . . I‘m going to kill you tomorrow”. Words and actions that seem to becoming more common among the elderly.
The script by Cerezo, Javier Trigales (The Sound of the Whale, Caraoscura), and Rubén Sánchez Trigos (La Luz) in domestic drama territory as Manuel’s arrival causes friction between Lena and the man’s blood relatives with Lena not being shy about reminding them they’re living in an apartment her parents gave them.
There’s also much talk of the economy in The Elderly. Mario installs AC units but he has no work despite the heat wave. Why? Because so many people are out of work they can’t afford one. That, plus Lena going on maternity leave has their finances stressed out. It’s the kind of real world fear many viewers will understand.
Add in the fears of growing old and losing one’s facilities and ability to care for themselves and the frustrations of dealing with someone with dementia and you have a situation that can produce problems without supernatural help. So when Manuel starts talking to his dead wife the script wants us to ask if it’s dementia or is he seeing her ghost. When he, along with others among the elderly in town, begins lashing out at those around them is it the effects of the heat, or something else?
As the elderly start going from angry and threatening to violent, it seems as though the filmmakers are trying to tell us something. That our neglect of the elderly as well as the planet coming back to bite us in the ass. Not that the elderly are blameless either, their generation was the one that put the economic and environmental crises into motion.
The result is a slow burning, multi-layered film that demands a lot of attention and not just because of the subtitles. There’s little in the way of jump scares and much of it is like the calendar we see with the months after the current one torn off. It’s creepy, but you have to put it together with other pieces of the puzzle to get the full effect. And even then many people, myself included, won’t get the complete story until the final scene.
And those final scenes deliver quite a punch as the temperature hits unbelievable levels and electrical storms rage as the shit hits the fan. It probably won’t be enough for those who don’t like slower paced films, but if you have the patience to deal with them you want to check The Elderly out.
Dark Star Pictures will release The Elderly in theaters on October 13th. It will be available on Blu-Ray as well as VOD and Digital Platforms on October 31st.