“Stay with me a little longer”
Our greatest fear in life is living to the point where we no longer remember what it was we accomplished. Gone are the moments spent as heroes. Disappeared are the faces of loved ones who stood by our side every second of every day. We yearn for the glimpses—no matter how brief—of the person we once were, scared by our inability to conjure a single shred of identity. And when we do, the disorientation of time and place distorts us to the point of devastating confusion. Who we are, who those around us are, and the life we still have become inconsequential when we must start anew with every blink of our eyes.
This is the bittersweet tragedy at the heart of Yan England‘s touching portrait of Alzheimer’s entitled Henry. Depicting an aged concert pianist (Gérard Poirier) putting the finishing touches on his performance of a piece that will mark the first time playing with his violinist wife Maria (Louise Laprade) since their fateful meeting in Italy during WWII, his quest for lunch in the open air becomes his first step into a frighteningly random set of drug-induced hallucinations through his past. His wife has disappeared, a strange woman (Marie Tifo) has intercepted him, and the best of his memories come in and out like a strong tide while imprisoned to his bed.
With a stunning use of transitional cinematography and lighting to open up Henry’s path through his mind while also closing those parts no longer available to him, England makes his audience feel every fearful chill of captivity and betrayal manifested. Answers to what’s happening gradually crop up as his younger self (Hubert Lemire) guides him to and fro sprinklings of recollection; anecdotal memories showing him the kind of man he once was. Lost inside the jumble of quick glances and fuzzy names, Henry eventually finds himself back home where he belongs. The realization it isn’t the same place we met him provides the rush of emotion felt as his unknowing eyes look back in wonder completely erased of the answers he so easily found minutes before.