A friendship develops between Emilio and Miguel, two aged gentlemen shut away in a care home. Emilio, a recent arrival, is in the early stages of Alzheimer. Helped by Miguel and his colleagues, Emilio tries to avoid ending up on the feared top floor of the care home for 'lost causes'.
SPANISH FILM FESTIVAL: Animated characters rarely stir emotions as effectively as those made of flesh-and-blood so Wrinkles ranks as an extraordinarily involving and poignant film.
Ferreras achieves a remarkable realism, never allowing the tone to become mawkish or overly sentimental.
Set largely in an aged care home, the film is likely to inspire laughter and deep sympathy for the characters, if not tears, in equal measure. Based on Paco Roca’s graphic novel Arrugas, it’s an impressive feature debut by director/co-writer Ignacio Ferreras, who worked as a character animator on The Illusionist and in the art department of Asterix and the Vikings and the TV series Rugrats.
The narrative has some pertinent points to make about growing old and frail, the fear of Alzheimer’s and facing mortality, while never losing sight of its intention to engage and entertain.
Emilio (voiced superbly by Álvaro Guevara) is a retired bank manager who’s physically in good shape but showing ominous signs of forgetfulness and confusion. In some respects he resembles the elderly gent in Pixar’s Up. He’s packed off to a retirement home known only as 'the residency’ by his exasperated son.
Much of the humour and dramatic intrigue revolves around Emilio’s ambivalent attitude to his Argentinean roommate Miguel (Tacho González), a crafty bachelor with an acerbic wit who nicknames him Rockefeller and shows him the ropes. Miguel pooh-poohs the unused swimming pool, observing that some folks can’t even shower themselves, and complains that life is a boring routine of 'sleeping, eating and shitting".
Miguel can be kind and generous but he’s also a con artist, scamming money from an elderly, befuddled woman who wants to use the telephone to ask her children to collect her but never does. A dignified but lonely man, Emilio is comforted by recollections of his childhood with his parents, wearing his memories like a 'blanket against the winter," as a famous poem by Judith Wright put it.
In the living area most residents sit silently, heads bowed, a sight which will be sadly familiar to nearly everyone who has visited such a facility. Miguel warns Emilio from venturing upstairs, an off-limits area where tragic cases are housed.
A slapstick routine involves a buxom fitness instructor and a bouncing ball, and there’s more comic relief in a retired D.J. who keeps repeating what others say to him.
There are moments of great tenderness, as when one woman spoon feeds her mute husband and whispers in his ear. In a fantasy sequence, another woman sits in a wheelchair staring wistfully out of the window while she imagines she’s young and riding on the Orient Express to Istanbul.
As Emilio’s condition deteriorates, his friend becomes more protective, and both dream of an escape. The pair are such well-rounded, three-dimensional and fully articulated characters that audiences are likely to respond to them and their predicaments as they would to human counterparts.
Ferreras achieves a remarkable realism, never allowing the tone to become mawkish or overly sentimental. Raco provided the character designs for the animation, which is rich and nuanced in colour and detail, especially in reflections and shadows: it’s among the most impressive I’ve seen in 2D form. Nani Garcia’s score, used sparingly, is a perfect counterpoint to the shifting moods.