THE PATRON SAINTS (Brian M. Cassidy, Melanie Shatzky). 72 minutes. Opens Friday (January 11) at the Royal. See times. Rating: NNNN
If you're looking for a companion piece to Michael Haneke's wrenching Amour this doc is your ticket. Both films deal with the cruel and inevitable fate that befalls seniors in their final years. However, Haneke's artsy sadism pales in comparison to The Patron Saints' unflinching look at human decay.
The bleak, expressionistic doc by Canadian filmmakers Brian M. Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky quietly observes the occupants of an unnamed U.S. nursing home for the aged and disabled, many of whom are just waiting to die.
Cassidy and Shatzky find a casual narrator in James, an obese man who is likely the youngest and most sound of mind of the patients. He's a tragic figure with a wry sense of humour and a laugh that hints at desperation. James is forced to find his own amusement, even if it's in his neighbours' misery.
The film offers little context or backstory about its subjects, who are in various stages of physical or mental torment. While it doesn't make explicit arguments, audiences will immediately question health care funding on both sides of the border after considering this understaffed nursing home and the poor state of its patients.
With conditions as they are, you can't blame the directors for using a garbage dump conveniently located nearby as a blatant metaphor. It makes Haneke's wounded pigeon seem positively chirpy.