Ewan Gleadow

Movie Review: The Mole Agent

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Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

There is a notable, obvious gap found between my generation and that of the elderly gentlemen opening The Mole Agent. “It is unnecessary,” one says of Wi-Fi. It is at this tender, fragile age that people begin to lose themselves. They have accepted their fate, sheltered by the scrap heap of care homes. Their filter for conversation has switched off, and they now have no guidance or defence for what they say or what they do. Perhaps that is why I feel bad or cautious around them. All they do is waddle around, breaking things and eating biscuits. They do not, however, solve mysteries and expose the lies and worrying problems of the Chilean care home system. That is what director Maite Alberdi and Sergio Chamy have set out to accomplish.   

Accomplish it they do. They infiltrate a retirement home where the residents are having a seemingly good time. It is always a difficult decision to make, to leave loved ones in the care of others when you simply cannot do it yourself. The Mole Agent never quite gets to grips with that idea, and at times it feels more concerned with fashioning a noir soundscape and series of poetic, faux thought-provoking shots. Still, these shots are nice, and while they do little for the narrative, they do much for the story, real or not, that The Mole Agent tries to offer. Through encounters and apparently natural conversation, there is much to be engaged with throughout from a perspective of both fiction and non-fiction.  

But it is the lingering lines throughout that will catch viewers off guard. “Your brain can really betray you; don’t you think?” one of the elderly resident’s quips. Their pockets of earnest, experienced wisdom is sudden and fleeting, almost as if the thought has formed on their tongue rather than in their mind. Something is endearing about the apparent wisdom. Those tender moments where their memory snaps into top form once again and they dispel something profound and randomly touching. For the most part, that is what takes precedent throughout The Mole Agent. Some of the moments are aimless and irregular, but are so striking and touching that they work even without the context, which is soon forgotten by both director and audience. 

“I’m the one who makes decisions about myself”. But how close is that to the truth? What is The Mole Agent? It is difficult to define, and even harder to slot into one genre. Fiction or nonfiction is indefinable, and that is the best and worst aspect of Alberdi’s craft here. The Mole Agent feels too close to perfection for reality, yet too interspersed with emotion and random touches to feel like fiction. It is a menacing, worrying and brilliant blend that makes for endearing characters and an interesting story. Beyond that, though, The Mole Agent is an understanding of the elderly care and negligence they sometimes receive. But those glimmers of hope and life and fun are worth clinging to. The dancing, the smiles and the hope of living a long life, The Mole Agent is an emotionally charged documentary that cannot leap over the overwhelming hurdles of its own making.