Hoffmann mentions that her mother was always an independent, strong-willed type, which comes through quite plainly with the film. Doris also has obviously been a bright woman and well educated, at UC Berkeley and graduate school of social work (her daughter says Doris was something of an intellectual snob).
She also is good-natured. She laughs a lot. Her mental confusion doesn’t seem to depress her. Her best memories are of her early childhood and her parents — it upsets Hoffmann that her closeness to her mother and their good times together have faded from her mom’s memory.
Director of photography Frances Reid appropriately keeps her camera close to the faces of Hoffmann and her mother as they interact, helping pull viewers into the situation.
The filmmakers bring continuity to the piece by showing old photographs of the writer-producer-director and her mother, interspersed with up-to-date scenes that portray the slow disintegration of what was once a fine mind.
Hoffmann brings out love, warmth and intelligence in her mother, which other Alzheimer’s patients being filmed around her don’t seemto have.
“Complaints”– which was nominated for a documentary Oscar this year –is an outstanding film dealing with a progressive disease, as far as it goes. But hopefully the viewer will not get the impression they have seen a comprehensive film about Alzheimer’s. The film ends when things, in reality, begin to get rough.
There is a brief mention about fetal positions and so on and, yes, Doris is headed for that and other indignities: the wheelchair, the complete lack of speech, the bedridden days and nights, the diapers, the total absence of communication with those around her.
A sequel that chronicles the further deterioration of Doris could be the basis for another film; however, the last stages are truly dreadful and the tragedy could make it almost too hard for viewers to watch.