Banker White, Anna Fitch
Roco Films (non-US)
"Genius of Marian" Plays 2013 Heartland Film Festival
As much a family drama as it is a documentary, The Genius of Marian starts off with a just turned 60-years-old Pam White having also just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, the disease that also claimed her mother, renowned artist Marian Steele. Her son and the filmmaker, under the premise of helping his mother write a memoir about Pam's mother, films Pam over a three-year period. He documents Pam's degenerative decline and the family's response to her decline.
For anyone who has been around Alzheimer's, The Genius of Marian will resonate as truth and hope and, perhaps, the way it ought to be but often is not for families less able to care for loved ones or seemingly less in a financial position to do so. Yet, it is also impossible to not fiercely admire the family's devotion to maintaining "family" in as close a sense to their truth as possible. It's impossible to not admire Pam herself, a woman who made some difficult decisions with her mother and knows that those decisions will be coming for her. Finally, it is impossible to not madly love Pam's husband, a man for whom "for better or worse" is without a doubt a commitment he fully intends to keep and to do so caring for his wife for as long as he is able.
As a film critic, I unquestionably found flaws within The Genius of Marian that I can't possibly ignore but, on the flip side, I also acknowledge as a human being I resonated deeply with it and greatly admired the family's willingness and commitment to sharing their journey.
If you visit the film's website, you get a sense of the classical sensibility that guides The Genius of Marian and the filmmaker's intent to show the power of family, the power of art and, as honestly as possible, the heartbreak of Alzheimer's but the possibility of living through it day by day by adjusting to new realities.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic