Ania Marson, Leslie Ash, David Sterne, Alex Boorman, Catherine Banks
Paul Romero Mendez, Arturo M. Antolin
Arturo M. Antolin (Screenplay), Kerry-Ann Calleja McGregor (Screenplay), Paul Romero Mendez (Story)
"Ruth" a Touching Cinematic Achievement
It becomes apparent only moments after meeting Ruth (Ania Marson) that something is amiss with this seemingly sweet yet obviously struggling elderly woman. Sitting beside her husband Ken (David Stern), she is frail and obviously confused. When she arises to fix them a cup of tea, her journey toward the kitchen makes it even more apparent that Ruth's cognitive abilities have declined.
Filmed as part of the "Trinity Challenge" produced by Directors UK and ARRI, Ruth is a 13-minute short film shot entirely in a single take. While this is a requirement of the competition, it's also an ideal way to shoot this touching, insightful story that brings to mind the struggles of Ruth, an elderly woman struggling with dementia whose lifeline, her husband, has passed away and whose cognitive decline has become so pronounced that it becomes increasingly obvious throughout the film that she can no longer maintain her home and, perhaps more tragically, is no longer safe to do so.
Polish born actress Ania Marson is revelatory as Ruth, capturing Ruth's fragility and desperate attempts to somehow make sense of a world she no longer understands. The film, co-directed by Arturo M. Antolin and Paul Romero Mendez, vividly captures her mind as it alters from moment to moment giving glimpses of past, present, and sometimes utter confusion all in the same minute. Marson, whose work I've seen in Don't Knock Twice, has appeared in a variety of projects including Nic Roeg's Bad Timing, Howl, Killing Eve, The Alienist, and more. She's simply astounding here and impressively avoids caricatures.
Leslie Ash shines as Jennifer, Ruth's daughter who is clearly overwhelmed by her mother's increased incapacity and vacillates between exasperation and compassion and exhaustion. As we watch Ruth's journey, we can't help but have empathy for Jennifer as she has clearly seen her role as daughter change drastically. It's a quiet, beautiful performance that reaches its heights in an extraordinary scene involving a sentimental possession that is nothing but a raggedy old blanket to Jennifer but so much more to Ruth.
Christian Lloyd's original score for the film is melancholy and immersive yet never maudlin. Tom Watts's lensing is fiercely intimate and refuses to let us look away from Ruth. You simply can't look away.
The fact that Ruth unfolds within a single shot gives it a vitality and intimacy that is almost shocking. It is impossible to not feel Ruth's struggle from moment to moment. You want to reach out and enfold her and make sure she stays safe.
There are little touches along the way that further the emotional resonance of Ruth, a film that manages to tell a story that feels complete within the confines of a short film. For those who've experienced dementia or watched as a loved one lived with it, there's literally no doubt that Ruth will prove to be an intelligent and emotionally honest glimpse inside the experience of those who have dementia and those who love them.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic