“Here’s what I can sink to … and here’s what I can aspire to.” Director and star Kitty Norton’s wise words from her documentary Wine, Women, & Dementia captures the human experience. Whether you know someone with dementia or not, this documentary beautifully reinforces that we are all made for the community and how film has the power to remind us of that truth.
After Kitty Norton’s mother is diagnosed with dementia, her father vows to care for her. Still, he suddenly passes away from pancreatic cancer, leaving Kitty and her sister, Lexie Fields, to put aside their six-year-long fallout and come together to enter the unknown world of dementia caregiving. Kitty and Lexie’s relationship is healed through the long days of caring for their mother, as they wind down with a bottle or two of wine to vent, laugh, and cry, achieving some catharsis as sisters and essentially coworkers since caregiving is a full-time job. Kitty recognizes the benefits of having this intimate time with her sister and creates a blog, “Stumped Town Dementia,” highlighting the good, the bad, and the ugly of caring for a loved one with dementia. The blog turns isolation into community as the blog’s success drives Kitty to pack up her wine and travel across the country to meet with new friends who became caregivers to their loved ones with dementia.
“…mother is diagnosed with dementia…Kitty and her sister, Lexie…come together and enter the unknown world of dementia caregiving.”
The film is well-paced and effectively weaves through multiple stories, allowing each to fully realize its characters, which allows the viewer to empathize. You are brought through the day-to-day physical and emotional struggles of caring for a grandparent, a parent, and a spouse. Similar to how Ang Lee incorporated the comic book panels into the editing of 2003’s Hulk, Kitty Norton, and editor Greg Byers incorporated the visual blog interface into the graphics, transitions, and editing of the documentary, which adds a uniform aesthetic, giving it a vlog/blog/documentary mix. This visual style keeps it from feeling like a stagnant talking heads type film, which it very well could have become if not for these editing choices.
It’s both heartwarming and tragic, funny yet terrifying. It’s apparent why Kitty’s blog is such a success, and that’s because of Kitty. She’s someone you’d want to be friends with, and by the end of the documentary, you feel that she is one. You’ve heard the saying, “That’s a guy I’d want to have a beer with.” Well, Kitty is that woman you’d want to have a glass of wine with who makes you feel heard and important. The film’s message is, ultimately, we all experience suffering … what will you do with that pain for someone else? Now, that’s something to aspire to.
"…both heartwarming and tragic, funny yet terrifying."