CFF 2023: THE ELDERLY is a Nightmarish Look at Aging Through a Geronotophobic Lens

The Elderly which just screened at the Chattanooga Film Fest is a Spanish thriller that is a nightmarish look at aging through a gerontophobic lens.The film starts the plot boiling with an octogenarian woman’s suicide, during a record setting heatwave in the near future. We then follow her husband Manuel (Zorion Eguileor) who goes to live with his son Mario (Gustavo Salmerón), who’s understandably worried about his father’s well being. However, Mario’s new and expecting wife Lena (Irene Anula) isn’t too happy with their new house guest, while their daughter Naiai (Paula Gallego) couldn’t be happier. For the first act, the film is a really sincere take on family, grief, and mortality, while also throwing in some red flags from Manuel that are easily dismissed due to dementia. Manuel’s been hearing voices and randomly murmurs that he plans to kill his entire family the following night.

But he’s just old and his wife just died, and old people say crazy things sometimes. 

From there Raúl Cerezo and Fernando González Gómez continue to build on that base turning up the heat both narratively and metaphorically with family drama, while also dropping more disturbing outbursts from Manuel that could be simply due to the stress of losing his wife of 50 years, the heatwave or something much more sinister. The ensemble here is just sublime and that is what really makes this narrative as completely engrossing as it is. There’s some very personal themes at work here as the film dissects this family dynamic and how they cope with grief, while also attempting to heal and move on. The drama is heightened by the sweltering heat wave that covers our cast in sweat and fills the entire frame in an amber haze, as time here is told by the increasing temperature rather than a ticking clock. 

The Elderly somehow manages to take the wonderful interpersonal drama and emotional cache it builds up in the first two acts and throw that into the woodchipper for a third act that culminates in gut-wrenching bloodbath. Its thematic interpretation in that last 20 minutes wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, but it was something that the more I’ve ruminated on, only made more sense. I think that’s the impressive part here, is just how much of that is baked in the script from the get-go just waiting to be unleashed. Raúl Cerezo and Fernando González Gómez have crafted a film that feels akin to Hereditary meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s the kind of familial horror and that’s a real rarity, in that by the time things get weird, you’re completely and totally vested in these people, their relationships and their fates. 

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