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The subject of old age gets the kind of attention it deserves but is too rarely afforded in the affecting "Wrinkles."

With: Alvaro Guevara, Tacho Gonzalez, Mabel Rivera.

The subject of old age gets the kind of attention it deserves but is too rarely afforded in the affecting “Wrinkles,” Ignacio Ferreras’ animated study of the friendship between two seniors in a nursing home. Featuring lovable but credible characters and a beautifully crafted, understated plot that emerges elegantly from their fears, fantasies and forgetfulness, this thought-provoking, universally comprehensible item skews naturally towards adult auds, but its animated format could plausibly appeal to a younger demographic. Wider exposure is assured for the pic, submitted to the Academy for animated-feature consideration.

Retired bank manager Emilio (voiced by Alvaro Guevara) lives with his son and daughter-in-law, but when he becomes increasingly irritable and forgetful, he is put into a home. There, he befriends garrulous Argentinean Miguel (Tacho Gonzalez), who renames Emilio “Rockefeller.” Miguel cheerfully swindles the other residents out of small amounts of cash but is also full of handy insider tips, such as how the nurses appraise the residents’ mental state by reference to the neatness of their dress.

Other inmates include Dolores (Mabel Rivera), whose husband has advanced Alzheimer’s, and a woman who sits by a window, elegantly smoking imaginary cigarettes and fantasizing about riding the Orient Express. Initially, Miguel scorns their tenuous grip on reality, but as Emilio slides ever further into forgetfulness, Miguel, fearful of losing his friend, becomes increasingly protective of him.

One of the writers, Paco Roca, is the author of the same-name comicbook on which “Wrinkles” is based, and the source material’s emotional authenticity has been transferred intact to the screen. Although nothing here quite matches the moving, life-in-five-minutes montage in Pixar’s “Up,” one swooping flashback sequence comes very close.

The story slips as easily between past and present as the characters do. There are few frames that could not have been done in live-action, but the decision to use animation means the “real” and fantasy sequences can be dealt with as precise visual equals. This is crucial given the pic wants to show that the vividly colorful fantasies into which its characters retreat may be better places than their home, seen in often subdued tones.

The animation technique deployed is uncluttered 2D, a world away from digital’s ability to replicate reality, but sharp use of telling gestures and expressions, redolent of Raymond Briggs, compensates well for the lack of flexibility. There is plenty of rich detail to enjoy, while clever use of reflections and shadows turns the apparently comfortable facilities into a hard place that at times evokes gothic horror. Sound work is attended to with an ear attuned to absolute realism.

Emotions aside, pic has a barbed edge, attacking the kinds of costly convalescent homes that contain never-used swimming pools; the clients, as Miguel acidly reminds Emilio, are not the folks who live there but the people who are paying. The strings of Nani Garcia’s score sometimes soar dangerously close to a sentimentality that’s happily absent elsewhere.

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Production: A Perro Verde Films, Elephant in the Black Box, Cromosoma production with the participation of TVG, TVE, RTVV. (International sales: 6 Sales, Madrid.) Produced by Manuel Cristobal, Oriol Ivern. Executive producers, Maria Arochena, Angel de la Cruz, Toni Marin, Tono Folguera, Daniel Martinez. Directed, edited by Ignacio Ferreras. Screenplay, Angel de la Cruz, Paco Roca, Ferreras, Rosanna Cecchini, based on the comicbook by Roca.

Crew: Camera (color), David Cubero; music, Nani Garcia; sound (Dolby Digital), Cinemar Films; animation, Baltasar Pedrosa. Reviewed at Cata Estudios, Madrid, Nov. 2, 2011. (In San Sebastian Film Festival.) Running time: 89 MIN.

With: With: Alvaro Guevara, Tacho Gonzalez, Mabel Rivera.

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