Those of us with recent experience caring for dementia
patients can recognize all the symptoms and context.
Zev Gutman (Christopher Plummer) wakes up every morning
reaching for his beloved wife of many years, and calling her name:
But Ruth isn't there. Ruth
has died, but Zev's dementia is such that he has a hard time
accepting a new reality. He
gets up looking for her. The
first time, he's in his nursing home, and the nice lady at the kiosk
reminds him that his wife has died, and encourages him to go to
breakfast, even though he's still in his pajamas.
Nobody seems to mind, or thinks it unusual.
Zev is joined at the table by Max (Martin Landau), who's
constantly on oxygen and can only navigate in a wheelchair.
It's a little disconcerting, trying to carry on a
conversation at breakfast with someone who constantly wears a tube
up their nose, but Zev seems to have genteel instincts.
We're never told what he did for a living back when he went
to work every day. Maybe
you get to a point where that doesn't even matter any more.
Maybe they're all at that point in their “extended care”
We expect all these old people with one foot in the grave and
the other on a banana peel to be universally benign and collectively
harmless. But Max, who's
still quite sharp mentally despite his physical limitations, has a
plot up his sleeve. He
keeps telling Zev that now that Ruth has died, Zev needs to keep the
promise he made to himself, and to Max.
He needs to go on a “hit man” mission.
It's almost laughable, because most mornings Zev can barely
get himself to the washbasin. His
environment would suggest that the worst trouble he could get
himself in would be to accidentally go in the wrong room and wonder
what that other guy is doing in there (this happened to my father),
or forget where he was and show up in the hallway without his pants
(this also happened to my father).
But Max has written out specific instructions to
Zev, which work great, when Zev remembers to get out the letter and
read it. Max reminds Zev
that they're the last remaining survivors of their section at
Auschwitz, and Zev needs to go find the commander who killed their
families. He's alive and
living under an assumed name in the U.S., and Max has narrowed it
down to just a few possibilities, but Zev needs to go find out which
man it was, because only Zev will recognize him when he sees him.
And so Zev escapes the facility by merely walking out at the
time Max suggested, when the staff is busy or absent.
Zev gets a cab and makes it to the train station, though when
he falls asleep on the train, it's like the slate erases clean
again, and he wakes up reaching for Ruth and calling her name and
wondering where she is. But
through the kindness of strangers, Zev eventually finds his way to
the limo driver who's holding out a sign with his name (Max has
arranged this). Somehow,
Zev finds his way to a gun store and buys a Glock (we all hate to
think of a gun in the hands of a man with dementia, but we have to
admit that it could happen). Zev
even makes it across the border to Canada with an expired passport,
again with strangers being nice to him because he appears to be so
confused and dottery. Meanwhile,
his grown son, back home, is in absolute panic, and trying
desperately to find his Dad who's somehow wandered off the
The journey is fraught with everyday challenges, but also
filled with surprises. Yes,
by the end, the purpose of the movie “Remember” is served:
we are all reminded. And
we must never forget.