The Patron Saints
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The Patron Saints

This unnerving doc reminds us why we make a point to forget about the people we hide away in nursing homes.

Brian M. Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky (Canada/USA, Canada First!)

Wednesday, September 14, 5 p.m.
AMC 10 (10 Dundas Street East)

Thursday, September 15, 9:45 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox 3 (350 King Street West)

Sunday, September 18, 9:30 a.m.
AMC 9 (10 Dundas Street East)

It’s easy to try to discredit The Patron Saints, an unflinching fly-on-the-wall look at life inside a nursing home, as suffering porn, given its unrelenting framing of the elderly and otherwise infirm mumbling half-coherently, laboriously eating beige potatoes, and praying for death. But maybe the impulse just comes from the central premise of the film: that there’s a reason we shut these people away so that we don’t have to think of them.

Cassidy and Shatzky usher us inside a nursing home like any other, not to be scathingly critical (even if there is, obviously, an implied commentary of systems themselves), but to confront us with the faces of people we work so diligently to forget. Narrated in places by James, a funny younger guy who’s been in and out of (but mostly in) institutions his whole life, the film is despairingly sad. Apart from some laboured operatics and trash analogies, Patron Saints never really strives for any quaking social commentary. But sometimes the wake-up-call reminder that life is a feeble, tenuous thing is just enough. Also, most thematically apropos use of a clip from Nightmare on Elm Street III: Dream Warriors ever.