Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5
Original Title: El agente topo
Chile/Netherlands/Spain/Germany/USA, 2020. Micromundo Producciones, Motto Pictures, Sutor Kolonko, Volya Films, Malvalanda, Filmosonido Estudios, Independent Television Service, Sonamos, Sundance Institute Documentary Fund, Tribeca Film Institute. Screenplay by Maite Alberdi. Cinematography by Pablo Valdés. Produced by Marcela Santibanez. Music by Vincent van Warmerdam. Production Design by Catalina Devia. Film Editing by Carolina Syraquian. Independent Spirit Awards 2020. National Board of Review Awards 2020. Washington Film Critics Awards 2020.
In this curious and crafty film, the line between documentary and fiction is blurred by the intelligently improvisational situation that the lead character is put in. A number of senior citizens are interviewed by a private detective for a special assignment, with Sergio Chamy the man who is hired for the job to go undercover in a senior home. The detective’s client is a busy career woman who is worried that her aged mother is being mistreated, possibly also being robbed by the staff or fellow residents where she is living, and Chamy’s job is to live there for a while and find out what is really going on. Learning to work the tech with devotion (namely sending messages on the iPhone that he has been provided), he wanders the halls of the care home daily, making new friends and immediately charming all the ladies and earning affection from the staff as well. At night he writes long, passionate journal entries about what he has witnessed and reads them in audio messages to his superior, frustrating the mission with overly elaborate details about life for the people he sees who are lonely, neglected and far from friends and family. What he learns about the actual case he is pursuing becomes thoroughly unimportant to us as we learn to appreciate the viewpoint of someone who is the same age as the people around him but lucky enough not to be in the same situation (as he has a big, loving family waiting for him at home). There are moments of intelligent grace throughout this quirky charmer, including a beautiful scene of him calming down a resident who has been frightened by a spell of dizziness, and a surprise party thrown for him by his new friends who have grown to care so much for him. Some of it is staged but most of it is not, and don’t try to find out which is which, just let the feeling of generosity and grace come over you as you experience this very collection of very human moments.