Today, Oct. 23, marks the FilmScene debut of The Mole Agent, a film that serves as the first ever Virtual Vino Vérité (“online wine and cinematic realism,” essentially, for all those who just mind-mumbled right over that). Co-sponsored by Bread Garden Market and Little Village, Vino Vérité traditionally involves a catered reception with a filmmaker after a screening, featuring dessert and wine pairing. Modified for COVID-times, a $50 ticket for the Monday, Oct. 26 event ($40 for members) includes weekend access to the streaming film, an 8 p.m. Zoom Q&A with filmmaker Maite Alberdi, a bottle of wine (with tasting notes) and dessert for two.
The wine and dessert can be picked up Oct. 23 from 3-7 p.m. at FilmScene’s Chauncey location or delivered for an extra $10.
The Mole Agent busts through the gate as a quirky, tender hit, directed by Alberti and starring the exquisite Sergio Chamy. Although a small-budget, independent documentary, it never once fell short of a Hollywood film noir that Humphrey Boggart would hang his hat on, if only there were a few more young bombshells and dramatic, dreary landscapes which end in a beautiful friendship. Still, The Mole Agent is a soft gem with a profound impact.
It all begins with an ad in a newspaper, which endearingly leads Chamy to go undercover at a local elder care facility to expose abuse and corruption. What he finds instead just may break your heart. Rather than suspicious bruises or hateful speech, he finds a woman wanting to marry a complete stranger, minds that betray memories and a tortured, heavy consensus that the people inside are human but are starved of human connection.
You see, it isn’t about being alone — we all love to be alone in some capacity. But to be lonely, to feel as if you are unworthy of love, forgotten and left to perish: That’s what nightmares are made of and what fills the darkest spaces within a broken heart. The documentary ends the way these often do: with a completed mission and a changed protagonist. In the background, however, you can hear facility resident Marta heartbreakingly try to comfort a tearful Chamy with, “Maybe my mom will come …” to take her away from the home.
What you will discover about Marta is that her “mother” is a façade, a stand-in for all of the family members, friends and neighbors who fail to show up for loved ones once their health declines. In fact, the only visitors the audience ever meet are those who arrive to see Chamy on his birthday — perhaps due to an unwavering bond, or perhaps because he is only pretending to be a part of something that society forgot.
To be clear, this documentary will still make you smile and rejoice. The most significant and powerful arc in this work is the confidence, love and defiance that grow within the protagonist. Chamy goes from a sweet buffoon who fails at technology to James Bond (if they ever stopped rebooting his story and youth) to a man who cares immensely about and advocates for the colorful people he befriends. Caring for aging loved ones will never be as simple as just sending in a detective to look into a mother’s well-being, nor is any theft as simple as rottenness when the “thief” is harmlessly confused.
The world is full of messaging and products that aim to prevent the signs of aging, shallowly embracing a generalized ideal of the “best” years of our lives and what that looks like. The Mole Agent is a powerful and ingenious way to teach people just how catastrophic this mode of thinking is — a reminder of how much vibrancy, soul, desire and dreaming people are capable of at any age or stage in life.
Remember this and what you see as you settle in with a bottle of wine, dessert for two, and a virtual reception with the director on Oct. 26. Maybe now more than ever before, those of the senior population are in need of some quality time (and maybe some alcohol, too).