Can’t Stop Breathing is a 12 minute Scottish short film about dementia. It put me in mind of 2006’s Away From Her, though it’s not that the plots are very close, beyond that both films are about dealing with the dementia of a loved one.
A grown daughter lives with her aged mother out in a fairly isolated area in the countryside. The mother is quite a bit farther along in her dementia than the woman in Away From Her. She mutters occasionally, but really there’s little communication possible any more, beyond what one might have with a one or two year old. She needs to be monitored pretty much constantly. Twice she is left alone briefly, and before the daughter can turn around she’s drifted out the door and is wandering around outside aimlessly.
The daughter deals with the situation with an attitude of grim resignation. Although clearly it’s a drag having to do so much work to take care of her mother, and it’s depressing to watch someone close to you slowly deteriorate, the main cost she seems to be paying is loneliness.
They’re already kind of in the middle of nowhere to begin with. The quality of company she gets from her mother is obviously very limited. When she invites the postman—no doubt the only human face other than her mother’s that she sees in who knows how long—in for a coffee, he begs off. Her sister calls to apologetically cancel plans to visit on their mother’s birthday, citing how busy she is.
The burden of caring for her mother has pretty much crowded out any hope of sharing her life with anyone else.
It’s slow and there isn’t nearly as much going on as in Away From Her, so the film feels longer than its 12 minutes.
It’s a sad, realistic, intelligently handled story. How one responds will depend in part on how big an issue Alzheimer’s or dementia is in one’s life. I’ve reflected on subjects like this connected with aging a fair amount, though I wouldn’t say at this time they’re at the very top of the issues that resonate with me emotionally. But I care enough about them and am interested enough in them for this short to have had a modest impact on me.
So for me Can’t Stop Breathing is clearly worth this brief investment of time to see, but it didn’t hit me in a big way that would lead me to give it a real strong recommendation.