The End of Good Old Days
The Locarno-awarded director Beata Dzianowicz’s second feature focuses on family drama. In Shreds, she explores the changing relationships within one family after grandpa Gerard (Grzegorz Przybył) has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She explores how this illness can destroy not just the sufferer but also all the people around them.
Gerard represents the body of the movie so the physicality is very acute, but unfortunately, it is mostly used in clichéd ways. The first appearance of Gerard´s diagnosis is strong, when we see he is without any embarrassment, interrupting his son (Michał Żurawski) during sex, and later, when, at an advanced stage of his diagnosis, is his son tying him to a radiator because that’s a better solution than trying to find professional help.
As Gerard works as the centre of the movie, all the plot lines are related to him and the further the plot lines move away from him the less well they work. So, it looks like the director was concentrating on his history and the others are there just to fill the empty space. In a scene at the family dinner, there is suddenly an unknown boy, which we later realise is Łukasz (Patryk Sojka), the boyfriend of Gerard´s granddaughter Zosia (Pola Król) Believability is also strained when Gerard´s daughter-in-law Bogna (Agnieszka Radzikowska), who was hurt during one of Gerard´s fits, comes back from the hospital after three months still looking like she was almost killed the day before.
The less time Dzianowicz spends developing the plot lines of other characters, the more she puts into developing Gerard´s. The way she shows the impact of the illness is more catastrophic than it could be as Gerard starts to devastate the world around him very soon after his diagnosis. The acting conviction of Przybył is stunning. Also, the support of Żurawski, as his son, is believable enough to make you uncomfortable and deepen the level of despair. But these two guys are the only elements that lead the movie to the right definition of desperation, the rest is so dramatic that it is hard to believe that all these things can happen to one family. Even though a psychiatrist tells Gerard’s son there will also be some light moments, we cannot see them here. Because since the diagnosis is defined there is no time for nice moments. Instead of watching the old man slowly mentally leaving this world, we just see an angry old guy who changes into a lifeless creature who ruins his harmonious family.
To attract more attention, the director tries to make everything more dramatic than it would be in real life. The message is that if you are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s it is going to destroy you and all the people around you very soon, in the worst way you can imagine, and there will be no nice and light moments any more.
© FIPRESCI 2022