There’s a magic in simplicity, especially in film. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Stick to a single idea and work on it until it’s perfect. As in life, rules are meant to be broken, and it is the rare filmmaker that can masterfully intertwine three distinct ideas into a single narrative and produce a piece of brilliance. This is true for writer/director Graham Streeter and his film I May Regret. His story takes on the issues of dementia in seniors, providing a lens into the care of and living with the disorder. While tackling that thorny subject, he casts light on elder abuse/neglect and euthanasia.
Set in the 1980’s Ruth (Lisa Goodman) is a wealthy senior woman suffering from advanced stages of dementia. May (Denise Dorado) is Ruth’s new in-home “caregiver” looking to steal any remaining wealth that Ruth’s family hasn’t taken already. Most of the first act involves May’s treasure hunt in Ruth’s run-down luxury apartment located in the Los Angeles Jewelry District. Ruth lets it slip that she has a substantial nest egg stashed somewhere in the building. Unable to find that nest egg, May begins to dig into her past by manipulating Ruth’s memories, interrogating the family lawyer Truman (Steve Alden), and suspiciously interpreting the motives of a young painter Dillon (Darryl Stephens), who’s been visiting Ruth weekly for years and “painting” her portrait.
“…new in-home ‘caregiver’ looking to steal any remaining wealth that Ruth’s family hasn’t taken already.”
Ruth’s dementia manifests itself in a series of shifting streams of nonsequiturs as she displays unfocused attention and becomes easily distracted abruptly jumping from one observation to the next. Although suspicious of Dillon’s ability to converse with Ruth and keep her calm, Dillon manages to make an impression on May and vice versa. Over time May is able to be the competent caregiver Ruth needs.
In the third act, enters Ruth’s nephew Paul (Holland Clement), who claims he’s there for a familial visit with his aunt. Suspecting that he’s there for money, May and Paul engage in a little game of manipulation and deceit against one another. In a moment alone, Paul and Ruth discuss his role in helping Ruth kill herself in a process known as Euthanasia. Paul’s motivation lies on the border of mercy and greed. Paul is genuinely not interested in murdering his aunt but does it for a huge payoff so he can pay off a few gambling debts.
“…draws you deep into his story and give you a sense of what it might be like to have dementia…”
I May Regret is a character-driven story. Denise Dorado and Lisa Goodman are the stars, and any wavering in their performance would have sunk the entire production. As Ruth, Goodman’s performance is authentic and rarely feels like someone pretending to have late-stage dementia. Dorado’s May is complex as the golddigger set to exploit and steal, but her intentions turn to a deep concern with Ruth’s well-being.
The ending hits you hard ripping out the single thread that holds this tapestry together, that’s all I’ll say about the ending. There are plenty of films and straight-to-VOD films about elder-care and how it changes the heart of the star, but I May Regret takes the familiar plot to new places. This is not an afterschool special by any stretch of the imagination; it’s a straight-up thriller.
The subtle brilliance in Graham Streeter’s I May Regret is his ability to draw you deep into his story and give you a sense of what it might be like to have dementia, without you ever knowing it. In an upcoming Film Threat interview with Streeter, he discusses how karma in a way is interwoven into the experience of dementia and how it serves as a plot in his narrative.
I May Regret (2018) Written and directed by Graham Streeter. Starring Lisa Goodman, Denise Dorado, Darryl Stephens, Holland Clement. I May Regret made its North American premiere at the 2018 San Diego International Film Festival.
8.5 out of 10 stars