Genre: Drama/Slice of Life
Year Released: 2011
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: R
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: The Window (2009 film), Grumpy Old Men, The Alzheimer Case, Aurora Borealis
-The English dub was used for review purposes.
-Wrinkles is based on a graphic novel by Paco Roca.
-Hilarious in Hindsight: In the English dub, the main character Emilio is voiced by Martin Sheen. Why is this a bit funny? His character shares the same name as one of his sons which would be none other than Emilio Estevez. You might know him from movies such as The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo’s Fire, and even The Mighty Ducks series.
There are some films out there that can deal with hard-hitting subjects. What is rarely shown in animated films would be senior citizens, but another major factor is mental decline. Whether it be dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, or any other type of psychological ailment affected by age, this is something that could directly or indirectly impact anyone if they or their loved ones deal with their advanced age and some problems that are associated with it.
Wrinkles is about an elderly retired bank manager named Emilio who’s sent to a nursing home community by his middle-aged son and daughter-in-law after having some mental issues due to his age. He gets a snarky Argentinean roommate in this retirement community named Miguel who shows him the ropes around the place while also being quite rebellious and has a penchant for conning the other orderlies by exploiting some of their delusions or mental impairments. Emilio slowly is able to adjust to living this life at this old, but his brain slowly suffers from Alzheimer’s as time goes on.
This animated film was quite a surprise for me since it deals with a topic I’ve never seen in this form of filmmaking before. Sure, there are a few live-action movies, but never an animated one. The production of this film may not be stellar, but there was certainly a lot of effort in it. The visuals are gritty and certainly not flashy. Compared to other works in GKIDS’ library, there may have been movies that look better, but the animation works very well with the context of the story. The character designs are simplistic, but not too simplistic and there’s plenty of fluidity with each character’s movements. Sure, this isn’t going to be a film that would involve stunt doubles if this were done in a live-action context, but there is great attention to things like coloration, detail, and even some subtle effects such as the watery sheen of the token swimming pool in the nursing home.
The characters in Wrinkles make this film click. The lead character Emilio is an elderly man who has to come to terms with his age and his mental state. Compared to most of the other patients in the nursing home, he’s better adjusted and can function in some social settings. He’s surprised by how his body came to this since he’s been an athlete in his past by being a swimmer and certainly made a decent living by being a bank manager. There are subtle changes to his character as he loses things or when he tries to cut his food with a spoon while being oblivious to there being a knife later on in the film. Miguel was a great foil for Emilio. Mentally, he’s saner than most of the other elderly people in this establishment, but he has his own issues with being cynical, manipulative, and selfish to most people around him. He’s also one of the few people not to have any family including kids or grandkids. Miguel does have a realistic view of life and can be a funny jerk, but he does straighten up in the film’s climax which makes him more redeemable.
I do have to bring up a scene involving two side characters that deserve to be highlighted. There’s Modesto and his wife Dolores. Modesto is wheelchair-bound, incommunicado, has to be fed, and has a severe case of Alzheimer’s Disease. He’s expressionless most of the time with the exception of his wife whispering the words “You’re a cheater” in his ear which makes him smile greatly. Even though they are both supporting characters, the level of devotion they have for each other is so strong. There’s even a flashback to where both of them are children when they first fell in love and it explains why Dolores is able to light up Modesto’s day despite his mental condition as those words hearken back to a time when they first became lovers. This was such a heartwarming scene that almost stole the show for me. If the famous flashback scene in Up is an example of it being a better love story in roughly eight minutes compared to that dreck known as the Twilight franchise, then the Modesto/Dolores backstory scene would put the aforementioned scene in Up to shame in a little over three minutes of screen time. Seriously, something’s wrong with you if that part of the movie alone doesn’t hit you right in the feels.
Wrinkles has a lot going for it, but not everything is stone perfect in this animated drama involving people at a nursing home. I noticed that the last quarter of the film dropped a bit in quality. I’m not going to say the finale of the film was poorly animated, but I noticed situations of characters being off-model and the fluidity wasn’t as strong as in the first three-quarters of the film. It does take more of a trained eye to spot the dip in animation prowess, but it becomes noticeable during the infamous getaway car scene like how the fences weren’t animated correctly. I also would’ve liked to have seen more about the upstairs room. Sure, Miguel explains that it’s where the more severe patients are like the young paraplegic Twiggy or some of the elderly patients who have very severe mental ailments, but they never go all the way despite a brief scene in the middle and near the end of the film given some of the fates of some of these characters.
There’s one part of the film that I thought had a bigger impact than how it was portrayed. At one point during the winter season, Emilio is under-dressed outside and he wants to go to the pool while thinking that he’s still in his prime to swim. Miguel tells Emilio that “You can either lie to yourself to feel better…or you can be a man and learn to face reality.” I get what the writers were trying to do by making Miguel look like a cynical uber-jerk, but the problem is that he’s more right than what was intended and I found a quote like that to be an uncomfortable truth in or out of context of this film. One issue I have with several Western animated films (or even live-action shows, to a lesser degree) is that there’s this notion that people need to be happy or positive at all costs even if it means ignoring cruel truths and realities. This flawed philosophy becomes a talking point to the point of it being a cliche and that’s not even getting into times where that logic takes the form of songs (see: “The Bear Necessities” or “Hakuna Matata”). Optimism by ignoring the dark realities of this world is dangerous as it is fallacious as people make excuses to be irresponsible. That quote from Miguel is something I wholeheartedly agree with as it’s a brutal anti-cliche in its own right while also being something that he’s forced to practice what he preaches in Wrinkles’ finale although it’s not in a way that he expected.
This film did hit me in ways I didn’t see because I have seen some of the things portrayed in Wrinkles that affected me. The thing is that I had a grandfather who died a couple of years ago and this review was posted close to the anniversary of his passing. Even though it was because of cancer, he dealt with mental decline during the last few years of his life. When I saw the scene where Emilio didn’t even recognize his own grandson, I instantly remembered the times in my late teens and my adulthood when he thought my name was Scott instead of Curtis. Some of the other patient’s delusions and dementia did remind me of him sometimes even if it wasn’t the same way he would have said or done things. In the end, there’s some text that says “Dedicated to all the old people of today and tomorrow.” which I found to be sobering. I wondered if any of those patients could be me in a matter of decades being put in a nursing home. I even had a theory about the Miguel character as that might be how a Millennial or a younger Gen-X person would be once they get to be of old age with the worst aspects of those generations with selfishness, cynicism, and dark sarcasm. This can be some grave stuff right there even though there are some funny moments.
Wrinkles is a fantastic film as it deals with a very relatable topic that affects people. The storytelling is superb as Emilio adjusts and eventually accepts his life in the nursing home while doing his best to cope with Alzheimer’s. The animation may be rougher than most of GKIDS’ other films, but there’s so much subtlety and depth even in the more mundane scenes. The music is subdued but achieves its goals in the score. There are some issues like a small drop in production quality near the end and some underdeveloped aspects of the nursing home area, but the good things about Wrinkles certainly overpower the bad. This is a fantastic film that got things right unlike the things portrayed in the Argentinean film that I reviewed called The Window despite having different plots. This is a highly recommended film.
Adjustable Point System:
Subtract 2-3 points if you prefer brighter and more light-hearted animated films
-High-quality storytelling and lead characters
-Realistic depiction of aging and mental decline
-The Modesto/Dolores backstory scene
-Lack of development with the upstairs room part of the nursing home
-Drop in production quality in the last quarter of the film.
-Some underdeveloped minor characters particularly Emilio’s family
Final Score: 10/10 points
Content Warning: This is for older audiences. The concept of aging will be lost on younger viewers, but that’s not the main issue. The realistic depiction of mental illnesses can get disheartening at times with elderly people much like the scene where Emilio tries to use the swimming pool despite the onset of Alzheimer’s starting to kick in his brain. There’s some strong language with most of it coming from Twiggy who drops so much profanity in her very limited screen time. There are some sexual references like one nurse coordinating gym activities who happens to have large bouncy breasts for some fan service while some dirty old men with some visual and hearing impairments “accidentally” grope her or grab her butt when she gets close to some of the naughtier patients.
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