Old age, a spouse suffering with dementia, grown children in the position of caring for their parents — these are tough, complicated themes in Fred Won’t Move Out, which screens Friday through Sunday at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.
That might sound like emotionally exhausting stuff, but this small indie has a surprisingly light touch. Writer-director Richard Ledes is more interested in capturing the stirring moments of family life than he is in heavy-handed exploration.
The elderly couple at the center, Fred and Susan (Ruby Sparks’ Elliott Gould and Choke’s Judith Roberts), reside in a comfortable home in upstate New York, but their living situation clearly isn’t tenable for long. Susan has Alzheimer’s; the help of a caregiver (newcomer Mfoniso Udofia) is not quite sufficient; and Fred, while mentally alert (mostly), is increasingly frustrated by — and impatient with — his wife’s deterioration.
Enter their adult children from New York City, who arrive with plans to take them to an assisted-living center closer to them in the city. Carol (Stephanie Roth Haberle, Deception), a therapist by trade, takes a gentle approach with her folks, while brother Bob (Fred Melamed, A Serious Man) is impatient with Fred’s refusal to go.
Some moviegoers might be equally impatient with Fred’s casual pace and listless plot. The film is slight, but not without modest rewards. Gould and Roberts give warm, engaging performances, with Gould finding an especially nice balance between humor and melancholy. If only Ledes’ script had been as up to the task.