In this provocative and disturbing documentary short, British filmmaker Georgina Hurcombe turns her camera on an important influence during her childhood: Oli Truss, a former headmistress who tutored Hurcombe many years earlier. The filmmaker returns to Oli’s home and finds the 90-year-old living in a dilapidated, rat- and insect-infested residence with only a dog, cat and Shetland pony as company.
Oli’s infirmities prevent her from accessing her home’s second level, so she maneuvers her walker through piles of dust-covered objects before finding a free space in her kitchen where she can sit and boil water for tea. Oli appears to be completely oblivious to the squalor and wreckage surrounding her, and she insists that she is perfectly happy living this way. This is confirmed by a home care worker (who empties the maggots from the long-unwashed kitchen bowls) and by Oli’s neighbors – they speak with cautious respect about her sense of independence without mentioning the filth and muck of the home.
While the circumstances that ultimately led to Oli’s reclusive lifestyle are detailed – her husband’s significant cash windfall from a betting pool created a permanent rift in their once-happy marriage, causing her to gradually retreat from the world – Hurcombe never directly asks Oli or her neighbors about the obvious health issues created by her inability to maintain a hygienic existence.
But when Oli assertively states that she was born in the house and will die there – which occurred shortly after filming ended – it is easy to understand how her spirit obscured the disaster surrounding her.