By Jennifer Thompson
CALGARY – Have you ever thought about what your grandparent or grandparents are doing after you leave from a visit? Odds are they’re probably not suspended in some adorable elderly person time capsule, perpetually baking and building wooden objects waiting for your return. In fact, they’re likely alone, and sometimes even isolated from society and human contact for extended time periods. Conjuring images of segregated senior citizens isn’t meant to spur depression, but filmmaker Ilona Elizabeth McCrea is trying to influence how we think about aging through her debut short film Dear Kate.
Dear Kate is a film that focuses on Lorna, a woman who lives in a seniors’ residence with her husband who’s been partly segregated from her due to Alzheimer’s disease. As Lorna is somewhat isolated from her family, the story unfolds through her narrative of a letter she is writing to her estranged daughter Kate. The details of Lorna and Kate’s estrangement aren’t the focus of the film, rather, it’s the longing that Lorna feels for a connection with something familiar. Lorna’s vibrant and eclectic past is woven throughout the movie as she reaches out to her daughter in hopes of rekindling their relationship and seeing her granddaughter.
When asked how someone who’s so much closer to the age of mother than a grandmother would choose to take on such a heavy subject, McCrea expressed her need to shed some light on how we treat people as the age. “I am quite close with my great uncle and I have a lot of older friends, and hear stories about how they suddenly find themselves alone,” she said. “I think it’s a shame how we quietly shut people away when they get older.” Ilona shared that, according to Statistics Canada, 1.4 million elderly Canadians reported feeling lonely. She referred to the problem as a “silent epidemic” that society just isn’t acknowledging.
Feeling a personal connection to the subject matter motivated McCrea to not only write the story but also direct and play a role in the film. Wearing all three hats for the production of the film may seem ambitious for a first time filmmaker, however, McCrea seemed to take it in stride. “I tried to focus on everything in the moment. The story is about Lorna and I wanted to tell the story as truthfully and sentimentally as possible so that everyone has an experience when they are watching it.” She continued to describe how she distinctly played with colour and light in the film’s visuals to give the audience a much different feeling between memories and Lorna’s currently reality. Her direction paid off as Dear Kate recently won a Rosie Award for best Cinematography.
Although Dear Kate is currently touring the festival circuit, McCrea is hoping to come back to Calgary for a proper showing. But as the film makes its rounds across the country and beyond, McCrea’s hope is that a sudden need to connect with grandparents and parents or even that older next-door neighbour is triggered. When you think about all those lonely seniors out there, it’s hard not to want to give someone a hug.
Shown at Newport Beach Film Festival, release date pending.Dear Kate, McCrea, Newport Beach Film Festival