Runtime: 85 minutes
Director: Maite Alberdi
Writer: Maite Alberdi
By Rosa Parra
“The Eternal Memory,” directed by Maite Alberdi, follows a married couple who endure the hardships of caring for one suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Augusto Gongora once was one of Chile’s most prevalent news commentators and an important contributor reporting on the dictatorship of Pinochet and its fall. Paulina Urrutia is an artist who still performs live theater. Augusto was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s eight years ago, and Paulina has slowly evolved to be his caretaker.
Following her Academy Award nominated film “The Mole Agent” (2020), Alberdi returns with this heartbreaking look and thought-provoking inspection of the harrowing effects Alzheimer’s has on those who suffer from it while also portraying how loved ones are impacted by it too. Similar to “The Mole Agent,” this documentary doesn’t concern itself with presenting a sugar coated representation of Alzheimer’s and places front and center the age demographic that’s often dismissed or just forgotten about, the elders. “The Mole Agent” shows the realities many seniors experience when their families place them in nursing homes, and in “The Eternal Memory,” Alberdi highlights this disease through this specific married couple.
What makes this documentary deeply effective is watching the parallels between Augusto’s lifetime work (shared through tapes of his reporting capturing history) and video recording of personal moments compared to his present state of mind. We live with such busy schedules that we rarely (if ever) stop to appreciate the small aspects we always take for granted, like memory. Our identity is an important aspect in our lives. Our memories, personality, language, education, and ordinary motor skills like walking, writing, cooking, breathing, colors, shapes, etc all shape who we are, how we act, and why. So to see how that can slowly fade away from loved ones can be heartbreaking to witness and much more painful for that loved one to not recognize you and have no recollection of who you are.
Paulina is one of the strongest and most patient individuals I’ve seen on screen, and to see her live through her day-to-day is difficult but also gives me hope in humanity. The pandemic further intensified their situation and gave a small window into what many people around the world lived through.
Overall, “The Eternal Memory” cements itself as one of the most heartbreaking, authentic, and much needed attention to Alzheimer’s disease and its most vulnerable demographic. It’s a story that made me believe in love again and reminded me about the importance of appreciation, gratitude for our loved ones, our everyday adventures, our memories and the power of film, because it never fails to impress me and leave me reflecting on life.