Making the Grades
Advancing age and the inherent afflictions that accompany it can strain even the most enduring of marriages. After a long life together Georges and Anne (Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanulle Riva) find themselves forced to face a new reality when Anne is diagnosed with a blocked carotid artery.
Surgery fails to correct the problem and instead leaves Anne paralyzed on her right side. At her return home, the retired music teacher and gifted piano player makes Georges promise he will never send her back to the hospital. Considering her dislike of doctors, the request isn’t surprising. Still, it is made all the more difficult since both of them are in their 80s.
Taking on the role of caregiver, Georges struggles valiantly to meet the needs of his wife. But her limitations prove to be increasingly frustrating for both of them. Returning from the funeral of a friend, he finds his wife crumpled on the floor below an open window after an apparent suicide attempt. He hires extra help yet even that does little to relieve the building pressure the couple faces.
Moving as slowly as the elderly protagonists, Amour explores the injustices of aging from the perspective of those who have arrived in their supposed golden years. Not only does Georges have to help his wife dress, eat and move, he also must deal with her deepening depression. And then there is his daughter Eva (Isabelle Huppert) who breezes in and out of their lives questioning his decisions and demanding changes—though she does nothing to help herself.
The mature themes in this French-language film, along with the work of reading the English subtitles and the age of the characters, make this drama an unlikely choice for family audiences. Adults however may find the insights in this unflinching look at the realities of the elderly are uncomfortably revealing at times, whether you are approaching that age or watching your parents do so.
While the script reveals the emotional and physical toll of enduring old age and does its best to justify the film’s final scenes, many audience members will undoubtedly be disappointed and divided over Georges’ last demonstration of what he considers to be love.
Theatrical Release: 19 December 2012 (Limited), 18 January 2013 (Wider)
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Amour.
How can adults prepare for old age? What kind of health problems, financial concerns and family issues should people plan for? How does the caregiver role change for Anne and Georges?
Does Anne’s condition justify Georges’ actions? What alternatives could he have considered? What role do children have in caring for their parents? What could Eva have done to support her parents?