PIFF 2021: When All That’s Left Is Love – Review

Release Date – TBC, Cert – N/A, Run-time – 1 hour 17 minutes, Director – Eric Gordon

Director Eric Gordon documents the love between his parents as his mother assists his father as he declines with Alzheimer’s.

There’s no denying the highly personal nature of Eric Gordon’s When All That’s Left Is Love. It’s a stripped-back, non-flash, basics feature; in some ways very much alike to a home movie. It’s an unfortunate family portrait as he documents his mother, Marilyn, caring for his father, Sheldon “Shelley”, as he deteriorates from Alzheimer’s. That nature in which the film is shot, we see Marilyn caring for her husband, through her own love, frustration and heartbreak, adds to the impact that it has, and the personal feelings that it puts across to the viewer. It helps to form a connection with both those shown and the emotional topics covered. As we see both figures breakdown through their own personal struggles there’s certainly an emotional punch that knocks you back, and for many could make for a tough, but honest, watch.

Where the personal connection doesn’t lie as much is perhaps with some of the other subjects we meet. Couples who are also living through Alzheimer’s, trying to provide care for their partners who they have loved for many years, in many instances their best friends. Perhaps this is because the core connection with Marilyn and Sheldon, they are after all the parents of the filmmaker. The glimpses into other lives and stories do have an impact and leave a mark, however because of the amount of time we spend with them the core focus is absolutely those with whom we share the most pain and heartbreak.

One scene in particular sees Sheldon breaking down on a cruise ship, it’s difficult to watch as you feel you want to help but aren’t sure as to what to do. Instead seeing how Marilyn attempts to cope and deal with her situation in such an enclosed, isolated space – as has become her own home. We truly witness what one doctor describes as something which “becomes a disease for the family members”

Not just a series of events in a couple’s life When All That’s Left Is Love is a film that lives up to, and demonstrates, its title. Even the various other figures we see over the course of the short, yet impactful, 77 minute run-time further prove this point as their bond remains strong and dedicated to each other. Gordon highlights the work that familial caregivers provide, what they do with very little help, assistance and respite; if none at all. After the previous year the film may have an extra layer of poignancy and relevance, adding to the overall effect of the film. Personal from multiple angles When All That’s Left Is Love is an emotional gut-punch that observes love in a time of unfortunate deterioration for both involved in the relationship. It brings you in through the caring nature of the core relationship and; thanks to its home movie style, emphasises such feelings and makes for a strong depiction of both part of a couple’s journey, and an individual one through the tough landscape of Alzheimer’s.

Helped by a highly personal home movie style When All That’s Left Is Love works best when focusing on the loving struggle of the filmmaker’s parents, while still providing some insight into, and appreciation for, familial caregiving.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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