Treat everybody right.
You hear horror stories of people who foster children in order to pocket the money they receive from the state meant for that child’s wellbeing and want to hope they’re the exceptions rather than rule. It’s easy to be cynical, however, and believe the opposite in this world. The same can be said about elder care and the often-tenuous relationships between children of aging parents with increasing struggles. Infighting is common because not every child is as well off as the next or as close. Suddenly a consensus can’t be reached and a third party guardian is appointed as power of attorney. Now that elderly parent who doesn’t know or understand what’s happening must relinquish their control to an objective outsider without an emotional connection to the case.
This is the scenario facing newlyweds at age 96 and 95 respectively, Edith and Eddie. After spending ten years together with a story about splitting a winning lottery ticket serving as their meet-cute love at first sight origin, the law is trying to tear them apart. Behind the courts, however, are also two women: Edith’s daughters Patricia and Rebecca. The former lives in Florida and has apparently been awaiting the eventual payday that selling her childhood home would yield if she can place her mother into a retirement community. The latter resides in Virginia and helps care for her mother and Eddie as they take up residence in that childhood home as (mostly) autonomous adults. Rebecca sees their love first-hand and knows it’s more important than anything else.
Director Laura Checkoway‘s documentary Edith+Eddie takes us into what’s ostensibly a sad feud between sisters wherein the state has rules to intercede. An intermediary is assigned the case and paid by Edith’s estate to keep her “best interests” in mind despite never meeting her or Eddie to judge the situation beyond a clinical diagnosis of dementia. This film therefore does what Jessica Niesen doesn’t: paint a picture of reality beyond words on a page. It provides subjective yet solid proof that Edith is happy. It shows that this marriage isn’t some attempt to steal Patricia’s inheritance and that Rebecca is very much involved in both of their lives as caretaker. We witness the potential of a court-sanctioned kidnapping hinged upon Niesen’s out-of-context facts that ignore Edith’s inherent humanity.
As stated above, cynicism follows the money. Patricia wants her share of the house and Jessica is paid from the funds the sale of that house would increase. But there’s more involved than the inheritance or even Edith’s wellbeing at this point. Being married means Eddie must enter the equation and yet his age and own health issues allow the courts to ignore him just as Patricia does. Checkoway depicts their bond of love in every frame whether this couple is together or apart, but also gives us a glimpse into the unavoidable failure of authority when strict laws must be followed regardless of circumstance. She shows the lack of respect our country supplies many senior citizens and how readily we sacrifice morality to impersonal acts of “justice.”