Finding Alice (2019)
Finding Alice (2019)

Genre: Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 20 min.

Release Date: April 5th, 2019 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Pablo Fernandez Actors: Emma Melkersson, John La Briola, Carolyn Siegel, Jeanett Espedal, Alicia Papari, Ellen Helinder, Lina Hall

 


 

Y

oung Erin (Emma Melkersson) sleeps on a park bench at night, neighboring an adult care center. She spies an ad about available staff positions, which leads to a scheduled interview. Of course, it’ll be difficult to dress and act the part, considering her homelessness and her general lack of resources – let alone references or valid work experience. She’s unable to provide a phone number or address, but that doesn’t seem to bother the hiring manager, who immediately shows her around and introduces her to coworkers and patients. One would hope it isn’t this easy to acquire a job helping the elderly, but perhaps this is part of the “true story” vibe, as oversights in such industries find their way into headlines continuously.

In seemingly no time at all, she’s bonded with 70-year-old Henry (John La Broila), a scraggly, white-haired dementia victim, who routinely speaks about his missing daughter. Most days, however, he just eats, sleeps, and watches television. “I need to get a message to my daughter,” he frustratedly insists, though he isn’t entirely aware of his surroundings, current events, or even the year. But he has good days and bad days, sometimes playing the piano and speaking quite lucidly. Erin’s ruse works out surprisingly well, though the inquisitiveness of her fellow nurses pressures her into an awkward level of unsociableness, threatening to unveil her life on the streets.

The film opens with the line “Based on too many stories,” which is just one more ornamented way of suggesting a glimmer of truth behind the plot, which is to say that this is likely 100% fictional. Noticeably overdramatic music chimes in habitually, not always matching the activity onscreen, as if meeting some sort of quota, even without suspenseful actions on the horizon; it’s quite odd, becoming the first of many things to go very much against the grounded-in-reality storytelling. Of course, when Erin virtually kidnaps Henry to go on a wild goose chase after his daughter, the realism begins to wane further. Impulsiveness or irresponsibility is one thing; Erin’s spontaneous scheme feels remarkably fanciful.

If “Finding Alice” is supposed to be an odd-couple road-trip movie, it makes a bit of sense. But the introduction and the character development lean in a different direction; its tone is more of a mild-mannered Bonnie-and-Clyde, brimming with strained humor, upbeat music, and a devil-may-care extemporaneousness. Something dark also lurks under the surface, twinned with an overt cruelty and short temper concerning Henry’s flagging health. If he were wrongly imprisoned in the nursing home, or abandoned in some way, his liberation would be nearly heroic; but Erin’s motives convey only selfishness and deceit. Occasionally, she behaves as if she’s the one who should be institutionalized.

They’re certainly a cinematic pairing, though their misadventures aren’t particularly cinematic (nor does each individual episode last long enough for a conclusion, such as a flighty notion to paint “Just Married” on the back of their car). Ups and downs betray a glaring absence of convincing drama, as neither character conducts themselves in a consistent way; if their costumes suddenly changed, viewers might believe them to be playing different roles. And once Erin reveals her ultimate mission, it calls into question why Henry needs to be included at all.

Mentally, he’s not all there, while she’s suffering from psychological traumas; but his persona doesn’t contribute much to the story, while her’s summons only disdain. As the picture progresses, his presence only grows more unnecessary, while she only becomes more unsympathetic. For a largely uneventful (or considerably uninspired) enterprise, it’s an inexplicably bizarre choice to build a plot around two leads who couldn’t feel more inconsequential – or, during sequences of greater fervor, simply alienating. The finale presents a long-awaited surprise, and though it’s memorable, it’s too late. Whatever point the filmmakers are trying to make, or whatever tale they’re trying to relate, it doesn’t work; this isn’t an examination of the human condition as much as it is a meandering mess of unfocused snippets of familial tragedies, comically devoid of meaningful connections or resolutions.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10