(Originally published on Overtime Online, 8th November 2020.)
It is difficult to imagine how, exactly, the events captured in this Chilean documentary came together; at first, we are led to believe the story will take shape as a hard-boiled exposé with espionage led by a carefully selected post-pension-age Columbo figure, Sergio.
He is unassuming, polite, highly intelligent, and at 83 years old he looks to be a perfect fit for an infiltration job being set up by Romulo, a private investigator.
The PI’s client is the daughter of a resident at a nursing home, and she is concerned that her mother is suffering abuse under the home’s care, so Romulo hires Sergio to investigate the home while posing as (and thereby becoming) a resident himself.
Sergio soon finds, however, that the real mistreatment of the residents occurs as a result of a different kind of neglect largely unattached to the nursing home.
While this documentary’s subjects are mostly in their twilight years, the film is so full of life and splendour it is easy to lose sight of the investigation which is supposedly the focus of the story. Instead the kinship between the residents, enhanced by the arrival of Sergio, becomes a far more meaningful thread to follow.
He is adored by all because he is kind, patient and understanding, and something of an enigma when he first arrives. Sergio’s sleuthing eventually takes a back seat to his growing personal involvement in the home’s community, as he finds that the population of the home all care for him just as much as he begins trying to care for them.
He makes some incredible friends during his stay, and finds a particularly special connection with resident Marta, who should – by all the classic principles of a good detective story – be his adversary.
The final moments of the film are moving in unexpected ways, and we are made to understand that small acts of goodness and generosity can cure the most painful cases of loneliness among vulnerable people – that everyone deserves meaningful companionship in life, whatever form it takes.
The Mole Agent is available to stream instantly via Eventive until 13 November as part of the AMPLIFY! film festival.
- AMPLIFY! is an online film festival running November 6-22, with digital programming curated by four of the UK’s biggest film festivals: CINECITY (Brighton), Cambridge and Cornwall Film Festivals, and FilmBath.