Monday, December 8, 2008

The Savages

After re-watching this movie today, I had to go back to our original Top 10 Palliative Care Movies post to remember if we had included it in our list. We didn't, but maybe we should have.

The Savages is an independent film released in 2007 and has been called a "coming of maturity" story. It's a very real picture of a family dealing with the illness of a parent. Siblings Jon and Wendy Savage are busy with their own complicated lives when the death of their estranged father's girlfriend forces them to back into his life. Their father, Lenny, is diagnosed with dementia and Parkinson's. In a short time, they have to move Lenny from Arizona to New York and find a nursing home to place him.

Below is the movie trailer.



One of my favorite scenes is when Jon and Wendy have to discuss advanced directives with Lenny.

Wendy: Okay. In the event... In the event something should happen- Um- How- How do you want us to... Um-
Jon: Dad, what if you were in a coma? Would you- would you- would you want a breathing machine to keep you alive?
Lenny: What kind of question is that?
Jon: It's a question we should know, in case.
Lenny: In case what?
Jon: In case something happens.
Wendy: Nothings gonna happen. Right now. Nothing new.
Jon: Right, it's- it's just procedure. It's something they want for the records.
Lenny: Who?
Wendy: The people who run the place. The Valley View.
Lenny: What the hell kind of hotel is it?


Jon and Wendy sort out their own social lives while, for the first time, having to take on the responsibility of caring for their aging parent. I found that this movie hits pretty close to the mark of the normal American family. It's very realistic how Jon and Wendy deal with a crisis in completely different ways, one more logical, one more emotional. Wendy has a lot of guilt over placing Lenny in a nursing home, even though she know it's really the only choice. Below is Jon talking to Wendy as she tries to get Lenny into a more exclusive nursing home.

"...You are the consumer they want to target. You are the guilty demographic. The landscaping, the neighborhoods of care; they're not for the residents, they're for the relatives. People like you and me who don't want to admit to what's really going on here...People are dying, Wendy! Right inside that beautiful building right now, it's a f***ing horror show! And all this wellness propaganda and the landscaping, it's just there to obscure the miserable fact that people die! And death is gaseous and gruesome and it's filled with shit and piss and rotten stink!"

I was struck by all the losses Lenny experienced: his girlfriend, his mental faculties, his independence, his dignity, his privacy... Another very realistic aspect of the movie.

On a side note, the nursing home staff has a very interesting prognostic sign. Apparently toes curling under means someone only has a few days left.

7 Responses to “The Savages”

DJ Elpern said...
December 9, 2008 at 2:45 AM

This is a helpful review. Thank you. I'll link it to a Humane Medicine/Film Blog that I maintain. http://www.medflix.blogspot.com Some of the Best 10 are there, but not all -- and there may be one or two you'd like to see. Is it okay if I link to your Top 10, too?


Amber Wollesen, MD said...
December 9, 2008 at 2:39 PM

DJ, Thanks for the comment. And thank you for letting us know about your blog. I'll check it out. Feel free to link to our Top 10.


Andy Probolus said...
February 10, 2009 at 6:25 PM

I agree that they got a lot of the normal issues surrounding his increasing debility right. I guess my only comment is they skipped the usually unbearably long process of low level of function that accompanies this illness, including the actually dying process itself. But as my wife constantly reminds me, its only a movie..


Christian Sinclair, MD said...
February 10, 2009 at 7:26 PM

Andy,

My wife (a pediatrician) almost always comments on the reality of live-birthed infants on tv and movies. Her comment, "That's not a baby." has become our standard statement for anything that is decidedly unreal.

THis is on my netflix list. Not seen yet.


Christian Sinclair, MD said...
March 16, 2011 at 11:53 PM

Andy,

My wife (a pediatrician) almost always comments on the reality of live-birthed infants on tv and movies. Her comment, "That's not a baby." has become our standard statement for anything that is decidedly unreal.

THis is on my netflix list. Not seen yet.


Amber Wollesen, MD said...
March 16, 2011 at 11:53 PM

DJ, Thanks for the comment. And thank you for letting us know about your blog. I'll check it out. Feel free to link to our Top 10.


DJ Elpern said...
March 16, 2011 at 11:53 PM

This is a helpful review. Thank you. I'll link it to a Humane Medicine/Film Blog that I maintain. http://www.medflix.blogspot.com Some of the Best 10 are there, but not all -- and there may be one or two you'd like to see. Is it okay if I link to your Top 10, too?