American documentary Eleanore and the Timekeeper looks at the endearing love shared between the titular Eleanore and her developmentally disabled son Ronnie. Having cared for him for over 64 years, the 91 year old faces some difficult decisions.
Ronnie believes he is ten years old and often enjoys sitting in his room ‘working a while’ in front of the window. The relationship he shares with his mother (as well as the film itself, having taken about six years to complete) is a labour of love that has developed into a daily routine. The bond is obviously strong but Eleanore, no longer able to cope, heart-breakingly must move him into a group home. Eleanore clearly loves her son, and this is something that becomes clearer as the documentary progresses. Speaking toward the end of the film, she movingly describes how she cried endlessly at his leaving home.
Written and directed by Eleanore’s granddaughter Danièle Wilmouth, Eleanore and the Timekeeper relies on grainy realism to tell the story rather than verbose description. In this way the the film flows organically and its lack of obvious documentary structure, as well as its tendency to focus on innocuous objects, gives the film a surreal quality that is aided by its Pennsylvanian backdrop. Though innovative, these qualities fracture the film and make for confusing and prolonged viewing.
A reminder of the constant presence of loneliness, ageing and sacrifice in everyday life, the film manages to tell a true story of love shared between a parent and child, a sentiment that is perhaps best summarised by a scene in which Eleanore lovingly trims her son’s beard. Prepare to be moved by this patient glimpse into Eleanore’s life.