Jane Seymour, Jacqueline McKenzie, Stephen Hunter, Coco Jack Gillies
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… perhaps a little soft-lensed, the film is never actively dishonest and is, in its way, an artistic response to a devastating condition.
As the Boomer generation ages, we can perhaps expect more films about the diseases of old age. Michael Budd’s film about the onset of Alzheimer’s is a gentle treatment of a sometimes harsh condition. After all, what could be potentially scarier than losing not just your memory but your very sense of self and all that anchors you to the world of family and friends?
The Ruby of the title is a woman of a certain age (as they used to say). Long since widowed, she survives partly by not recognising that her husband has died. This somewhat exasperates her daughter Sharon (Jacqueline McKenzie) and son in law Doug (Steven Hunter). They have tense negotiations about how best to look after Ruby in her decline. When Ruby sets her house on fire by forgetting she left the stove on, it becomes obvious that they will have to let her live with them. This initially irritates their teenage daughter Tash (Coco Jack Gillies) who, then somewhat predictably, bonds with her glamorous but confused Nanna.
Ruby is played by the suspiciously un-aged Jane Seymour who swans through the film in a succession of beautiful clothes. The film doesn’t choose to approach the grotty or violent edges of the disease and, though Seymour is game for the role, she is rarely required to really ‘go there’. Dignity and classical beauty she can do.
As a portrait of a suburban Australian family under duress, the film is underwritten and not especially expertly played. Jacquie McKenzie takes the acting honours, but you know that she is capable of so much more.
The central message of the film – that love for the sufferer is the key to the least worst outcome – is hard to deny. The film also advocates for home care for as long as possible and comes close to a campaign piece in its tone (a caption tells us half the proceeds of the film will go to a suitable charity).
Though perhaps a little soft-lensed, the film is never actively dishonest and is, in its way, an artistic response to a devastating condition.