Death and mortality have always plagued the human race. Death is inevitable. But somehow, even as it tears apart family after family, it has a funny way of bringing us closer. The Savages, a 2008 Oscar nominee for Best Actress and Best Original Screenplay, was written and directed by Tamara Jenkins.
Brother and sister Jon and Wendy Savage are ordinary people leading ordinary lives. But when they receive news of their father falling ill, they are faced with a decision. They must take on the challenge of caring for him—which is more than he ever did for them—but still the decision of whether to put him in a nursing home isn’t an easy one.
Both siblings are aspiring writers who, at first, find it a tremendous inconvenience to be looking after the man who is responsible for their screwed-up childhoods. The pain of listening to his two children argue over what to do with him—though with the dementia he is not quite sure exactly what is going on—has him deteriorating by the day.
Even as Jon and Wendy fight, argue and drive their father into sadness, their combined efforts to care for their father give their lives a little more meaning.
As you might have inferred from the Oscar nominations, the acting in this film is phenomenal. Laura Linney, who plays Wendy, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays Jon, are unbelievably convincing in their roles. And although Hoffman was not nominated for an Oscar for this film, he certainly gives an Oscar-worthy performance.
Jon and Wendy’s father, Lenny Savage, who is played by Philip Bosco, is absolutely heart-wrenching in his role. For a good portion of the time I was sitting in the theater, my eyes were on the verge of tears for this poor father. Even though he may not have been the best parent, something about illness and struggle makes the heart more forgiving.
Not only was the acting truly moving, but the writing was as well. If the actors had been given a bad script, the film would not likely have gotten any Oscar nominations. However, the writing was beautiful, but at the same time the conversation felt completely natural.
Usually, in films of this genre, the camera work is never anything spectacular. But in The Savages, Jenkins just makes it work. It’s not bland or plain…it just works with everything else. And it adds to the film as it should.
Nothing in the film is far-fetched. Everything feels like it is happening right before your eyes—like you’re watching someone’s life pan out right in front of you, but the person is just too captivated to mind that you’re observing him.
The Savages is not uplifting as a whole, but there are moments when you will catch yourself smiling and laughing. It is a film that gives us hope as human beings. It makes us remember why we are here (whatever your beliefs may be) and who we are here for.
The Savages will likely drive you to tears. It will make you want to take a closer look at the way you live and think a little more about the way you want to live. Very few 2007 films accomplished this. And even if you think you would rather see a film such as Step Up 2 The Streets or whatever it is you are into, this film will affect you, and it will touch you.
It is an Oscar nominee for good reason, so don’t let an opportunity stray from your grip. Rather than letting yourself be drawn into a film simply for the aesthetics or sound effects, see a film that will affect you for a change. Be a part of the Savage family.