Merely yesterday, in my review for Shaun the Sheep Movie, I mentioned that there exists a legion of people that believe animated films are not serious, and are simply just there to entertain children. Considering I wrote that in a review for a film aimed mostly at children, it applies to a vast majority of animated films, and there are very often films within that genre that don’t fit the traditional mould that the uninformed seem to cast all animated films into. The point is that there are very often films that come about within the animated sub-genre that are not aimed at children at all, and are films made for adults, that are simply just animated. One such film is the extraordinary and brilliant Spanish animated drama, Wrinkles (also known as Arrugas), which is one of the most brilliant films I have ever seen, animated or live-action.
There seems to be this belief in modern cinema that the only role old people play in films are stereotypical elderly, supporting roles such as grandparents, wise elders and quirky side characters. There are very rarely films that explore the side of aging that portray it accurately. I don’t speak from experience – I am nowhere near old enough to qualify to judge how a film represents the process of growing old, but I feel that in life, we see and encounter old people that fascinate us and prove the stereotypical views of the media wrong – old people are not just novelty items, there to serve as reminders of the past, but rather are people from past generations, the same generations that gave birth to what we consider creature comforts now. We sometimes need to remind ourselves that not only do these old people represent the past, they themselves have their own pasts. They too were once young, and suffered heartbreak and found joy in the small things and excitement in the large things, much like we do. The ages that await us in the future have already been lived by the elderly, and it is important to remember that they have their own lives before becoming old. I am not entirely sure a film has encapsulated this quite like Wrinkles, where we see the insecurity, the worry and the pain that goes with aging, and how there is nothing one can do about it other than just accept the future, as it is impossible to go into the past.
Wrinkles is a very simple story – Emilio is a man who is well into the twilight years of his life, but it seems like he cannot take care of himself any longer, and his family sees him as a bit of a burden, someone that impinges on their own growth and enjoyment of life. As a reaction, Emilio’s son places him in an elderly care facility, where they promptly leave him to fend for himself. Initially scared and alone, he is introduced to Miguel, his roommate and the person that will completely change the rest of his life. While Emilio is a quiet, reserved man, Miguel is a hot-blooded, independent man who is only a resident in the facility as a way to get pampered, even though it is impossible to deny that perhaps Miguel is also in need of the care and support of the home in his own advancing years. Over the next few months, Miguel teaches Emilio the art of enjoying life, even if you are stuck in a dead-end retirement home. However, everything changes in Emilio’s life when he discovers that he has Alzheimer’s Disease, and that he will too eventually be taken “upstairs”, the most dreaded place of all, where those who cannot take care of themselves at all are sent into a form of exile. The friends that Emilio made, such as Miguel and the rambunctious Antonia, along with the adorable couple of Dolores and Modesto, all handle the ravages of old age in their own individual manner, knowing full well that growing old is a challenge absolutely no one is capable of getting out of alive.
Wrinkles is a simple story, but it is absolutely extraordinary. It is because the simple hand-drawn animation is absolutely beautiful and the simplicity and nihilistic approach to the style of animation is truly very memorable. The beauty of this film comes in the small moments. There is a scene showing the childhoods of Dolores and Modesto, and how they came to fall in love. That scene is one of the most beautiful moments in any film that I have ever seen, and I found myself getting very teary-eyed at the beauty of that scene, and immense sadness that followed immediately after. A film such as Wrinkles could have most certainly been a melodramatic, sentimental and cliched mess, but instead it was a film that resulted in delicate beauty and many scenes of incredibly poignancy and tenderness that would bring a tear to the eye of even the hardest cynic. A film such as Wrinkles, especially one set in a retirement home, won’t have an absolutely happy ending – that is nearly impossible with the theme of this film, and there will be some elements of incredible sadness throughout – that is, after all, what life is about. The approach taken to this film, to show the sadness of growing old, is shown in a blunt manner, which hits the audience hard, but also provides suitable emotional resonance. It doesn’t lead you to believe in the poignant moments of this film, it leads you to experience that some poignancy. Not once was this film sentimental or cliched, and it certainly wasn’t as contrived as it could’ve been. Instead, it was a classy, sweet and very emotional film.
Wrinkles is a truly heartbreaking film. It reminds us that the old people we encounter, whether those in our lives or those that just fleetingly pass through our days, all have their own experiences, and the only part of their lives that they still hold onto are their memories, which is all they have left in the lonely days of growing old. However, as Wrinkles shows, there is still much fun and enjoyment to be had, even when one is incredibly close to death. Instead of ending sadly, Wrinkles ends with a hopeful and uplifting message of joy and nostalgia, and proves that growing old is something we all wish for, as it means we have lived as long as we possibly can and experienced all we could possibly experience, but that we should also look forward to it, because even then, growing old and frail, there are many opportunities to enjoy yourself. Wrinkles is one of the most devastating and beautiful films I have ever seen, and I urge everyone to seek it out. You are rarely going to find a film that will move you quite like this one.