SFIFF 59: Home Care and Five Nights in Maine

The care of the self and the care of others are frequently at odds. Where does the care of the self end and the care for others begin? Are they inextricable from each other? Are they one and the same? What is selfish and what is selfless? Home Care and Five Nights in Maine (currently playing at the 59th SF International Film Festival) examine this delicate issue of family and care. In Five Nights in Maine, Sherwin, a bereaved widower, and his equally-bereaved mother-in-law, Lucinda, try to cope, not just with the sudden death of the wife/daughter, but also with the detritus of things left unfinished and unsaid. Death is not the end but rather one of life’s many stations, a statement which triggers a longer dialogue about the autonomy of the self within family. The film gently illustrates the inter-familial obligations which death bestows on the living; selfishness and selflessness are at play. Similarly, in the delightful and occasionally zany Home Care, Vlasta’s illness and inevitable early death push her selfish husband to really consider what life would be like without her. Equally, she examines her career as a home care nurse and the ways in which this grueling line of work has cost her health. Though different in tone and style, both films also illustrate the myriad ways in which death and illness in the family test the idea of what it really means to be a part of family or a community. David’s grief is not just about losing his love but also about his role in mending the fractured relationship between mother and daughter. Likewise, Vlasta’s family grieves for her sake but also for the change (or demise) of their relationships with her. Grief over death can only be individual and private for so long; we are all connected.

Home Care (Domácí péce), dir.Slávek Horák, 92 mins. Ceská Televize et al., 2016. In Czech.
Five Nights in Maine, dir. Maris Curran, 82 mins. Loveless, et al., 2015.

Both films are screening at the 59th San Francisco International Film Festival, which runs through 5 May 2016.