×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Alice Cares’

Researchers test the use of an emotionally intelligent 'care-bot' with the elderly in this moving documentary.

With:
Martha Remkes, Carolien Schellekens-Blanke, Jo Van Wittmarschen.  

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4619556/

In 2024, there will be twice as many 80-year-olds as there are today. Of these, 75% will need some sort of in-home health care; others might become lonely and could develop dementia. “Alice Cares,” a fascinating documentary from Dutch helmer Sander Burger, examines a pilot program developed by researchers at Amsterdam’s Free U. that is testing the use of an emotionally intelligent “care-bot” named Alice with the elderly population. A remarkable representation of how technology can be combined with human care to support seniors living independently, this fest favorite should wind up on the radar of cable programmers and academics.

Manufactured by the U.S. firm Hanson Robotics, Alice is approximately 2 feet tall, with a soft, doll-like face and a camera behind her blinking eyes. As someone from the research group explains, “People are afraid of big robots.” The software that drives her combines results from lab experiments, field studies, focus groups and computer simulations.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the pic is the opportunity to see Alice at work. Burger follows the development of the relationship between Alice and each of the three widowed seniors — Martha Remkes, Carolien Schellekens-Blanke and Jo Van Wittmarschen — to whose apartments she is brought on a regular basis by the research team. Although all the women initially maintain that they would prefer to have a real person coming in, Alice is able to engage each of them in conversation and relate to them in different ways. She watches TV soccer matches with Remkes (who dresses her in team colors), even exclaiming, “Go Holland go” to wake her when she dozes off; she sings and plays music with Schellekens-Blanke, a vocalist; and she monitors and counts out Van Wittmarschen’s physical therapy exercises.

Burger’s copious use of footage from the (not very good) camera inside Alice shows the women smiling at her as if she were human. And it is not only Alice’s clients who relate to her in this manner. So, too, do Schellekens-Blanke’s 92-year-old gentleman caller and the waitress at the senior center that Remkes visits. That we, the audience, experience so much through Alice’s eyes also humanizes her for us.

We also see the perspective of the women’s human caregivers. Also skeptical at first, they relax somewhat when they see that the care-bot is not about to replace them, marveling at the way Alice can be used as both interactive company and a reminder to take medication and exercise. Schellekens-Blanke’s daughter is amazed that Alice actually got her mother to sing. Meanwhile, the researchers also pore over the results from the Alice-cam, and seize the chance to tweak various elements from the tone of her voice to her responses.

Although stylistically, “Alice Cares” is not remarkable, the content brings science and sentiment together in an exceptionally moving way.

Film Review: 'Alice Cares'

Reviewed at Vancouver Festival (Nonfiction Features), Oct. 3, 2015. (Also in Rotterdam Film Festival — Limelight) Running time: 80 MIN. (Original title: “Ik ben Alice”)

Production: (Documentary — Netherlands) A Key Docs production with the support of NCRV, Mediafonds. Produced by Janneke Doolaard. Co-producers, Hanneke Niens, Hans de Wolf, Yolande van der Blij.

Crew: Directed by Sander Burger. Camera (color, HD), Sal Kroonenberg; editor, Manuel Rombley; music, Jeroen Arts; sound designer, Jan Schermer; sound, Taco Drijfhout, Gideon Bijlsma, Hein Verhoeven.

With: Martha Remkes, Carolien Schellekens-Blanke, Jo Van Wittmarschen.  

More Film

  • Lisa Borders Time's Up

    Time's Up President Lisa Borders Resigns

    Lisa Borders has resigned as president of Time’s Up, she and the organization announced on Monday. Borders is resigning due to family issues, she said in a statement. Time’s Up COO Rebecca Goldman will now serve as interim CEO. “As Time’s Up continues to grow, I am proud of the work I have done to [...]

  • Keira Knightly as "Rachael Morgan" in

    Film Review: Keira Knightley in 'The Aftermath'

    Less widely seen (and acclaimed) than it deserved to be, James Kent’s debut feature “Testament of Youth” was one of the great recent love-in-wartime dramas, translating the intimate romance and sprawling human tragedy of Vera Brittain’s WWI memoir with a grace and heft worthy of its David Lean allusions. Four years on, it’s not hard [...]

  • Inside Amazon's New Feature Film Strategy

    Amazon's New Film Strategy: Straight-to-Service Titles and Starry Sundance Buys

    It was close to midnight when Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke got the text. The company had failed in its quest to acquire “Brittany Runs a Marathon,” a body image dramedy that captivated Salke when she saw it at Sundance. A sales agent on the project messaged her to say that a competitor offered a [...]

  • Alfonso Cuaron71st Annual Writers Guild Awards,

    Alfonso Cuarón on Academy's 'Inevitable' Reversal on Televised Oscar Categories

    Alfonso Cuarón isn’t exactly surprised that the Academy reversed its decision and will now air all the Oscar categories during the live show on Sunday. Feb. 24. Calling the decision “inevitable,”Cuarón tells Variety that he thinks the Academy should take things even further. “Let’s stop calling them technical categories!” he told Variety on Sunday night [...]

  • TorinoFilmLab Announces Selections for 2019 ScriptLab

    TorinoFilmLab Announces Selections for 2019 ScriptLab (EXCLUSIVE)

    The TorinoFilmLab has announced the 20 feature projects and five story editor trainees who have been selected to take part in the 2019 edition of ScriptLab, an initiative focused on the development of fiction feature film scripts in early development stage. Beginning in March, this year’s participants will team up with filmmakers from around the [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    North American Box Office Declines From Last Year With Weak Presidents Day Weekend

    “Alita: Battle Angel” easily won a tepid Presidents Day weekend with a $34.2 million at 3,790 North American locations, estimates showed Monday. Overall domestic moviegoing for 2019 has plunged 22.1% to $1.24 billion as of Monday, according to Comscore. That’s $350 million below the same date a year ago and the lowest figure at this [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content