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TX: 25.01.08 - The Savages

PRESENTER: CAROLYN ATKINSON

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LINNEY
It certainly did make me think about more the responsibilities that one has when a parent is ageing or any other family member that you happen to be responsible for and the issues that it brings up and at least for me I know it's a subject that just fills me with absolute dread, it scares to me to death and made me sort of think about well how can I help myself through that process.

ATKINSON
I'm just thinking of the sort of set pieces as you go through the film, I mean that first sort of phone call in the night and you ring your brother and you're freaking out basically aren't you, and his reaction is utterly different to yours.

LINNEY
These are two siblings who - they have very different I think views and relationships to this one particular parent but he didn't love either of them, he was abusive towards one and negligent towards the other. So they react to this sort of emergency - medical emergency differently.

CLIP FROM THE SAVAGES
BROTHER
It's the middle of the night I've got to teach in the morning and I'm on a deadline.

SISTER
Our father, do not leave me alone with this.

BROTHER
I'm not leaving you alone, I'm just hanging up - we'll talk tomorrow. Okay?

SISTER
We don't even know where the man lives anymore, you want to know where he lives? Sun City - have you ever heard of that - in the middle of the desert somewhere, we're going to have to go out there and find him.

BROTHER
We are not going to have to go out there and find him, Wendy, we're not in a Sam Shepherd play.

SISTER
We're going to have to do something, this is a crisis.

BROTHER
Look I don't think this actually qualifies as a crisis, it's an alarm, okay, it's not a crisis, not yet.

SISTER
You mean it's like we're in orange?

BROTHER
What? Yeah right exactly you're in yellow, okay, so we just should just be aware and be cautious and when it hits red then we're in trouble.

ATKINSON
He's got vascular dementia, you know it's all going wrong, it's very, very practical and so many people will relate to that when they first see the little clues as they kick in.

LINNEY
When the penny drops that someone you love and care and who has cared for you that the end of their life has started I think it is a moment of great loss and also - and also in some very weird kind of way you know you're quite privileged to be able to see someone through to the end of their life and I've certainly been a part of that for several people.

ATKINSON
When you say you've helped people through have you been a carer yourself then?

LINNEY
Indirectly, not completely. My grandmother spent the last year of her life in a nursing home, quite a very nice one, and it was actually very good for her in that she was a very old age and had lived alone for a long time, so the stimulation was good for her, as far as I could tell and she was one of those women who grew old very gracefully and became more chipper and cheerful as she grew older as opposed to sort of the bitterness and the resentment and the anger that can come into so many people as they start to head towards that direction. And then a lot of my friends unfortunately have died of AIDS, I've been there with several people.

CLIP FROM THE SAVAGES
SISTER
I wasn't thinking about putting him in a nursing home.

BROTHER
What were you thinking?

SISTER
I don't know but I wasn't thinking that.

BROTHER
Where else is he going to live Wen? I mean really what's the alternative, do you want - do you want to change dad's diapers? Wipe his arse?

SISTER
He doesn't need diapers.

BROTHER
What do you think that catheter was?

SISTER
He's in the hospital.

BROTHER
Look even if they did let dad stay here, he [indistinct words], we can't afford that, you heard the nurse dad falls, he's disoriented.

SISTER
He hasn't fallen once since we've been here.

BROTHER
Don't make me out to be the evil brother who's putting away our father against your will, right we're doing this together, right?

ATKINSON
The role of Wendy, I mean she's desperately running round trying to do everything right for everybody, she's feeling enormous guilt but she's - I mean I sort of - the scene when you suddenly found Greenhill Manor and you suddenly - for your benefit really - you're rushing off to make it better for your father, he actually doesn't know where he is, he thinks he's in a hotel.

LINNEY
There is a sequence in which it becomes very clear that he's not sound of mind and really doesn't understand where he is. And they have placed him in this nursing home and as they are leaving he tells them that, you know, in a fancy hotel like this you have to tip the staff. The moment that really stuck out for me was the first night that we leave him there. When you move someone into a facility like that and then you have to walk away for the first night that is an unbelievably difficult experience for anybody, even if they're in a place where they are safer and possibly more comfortable it is a wrenching experience, more so I think probably for the people who are putting their parent in, sometimes even for the parent. But when we moved my grandmother in that night was just - it was awful, it was just awful because you do feel in some ways a sense of failure in our society that we don't hands on take care of our parents until the very end or whoever it is that we're caring for and you do pass that responsibility on to a person, an institution, a home. The one thing that this movie did do was it prompted me to sit down with those people who I'm responsible for and say to them look when you go I'm going to be a mess, I'm going to be a mess, the greatest act of love you can do for me, right now, is for us to make some decisions now while we still have a good sense of humour, I know it's morbid, I know it's hard to think about and to talk about but you will be giving me the greatest gift of all if you can help me through that period of time so that when I'm going through this I'll feel like you're still there, you know, because I will be carrying out the things that we had discussed.

ATKINSON
There is a scene in the film where you basically do that but way too late and it's funny/deeply uncomfortable.

CLIP FROM THE SAVAGES
SISTER
In the event that something should happen how - how do you want us to...

BROTHER
Dad, what if you're in a coma?

SISTER
John.

BROTHER
Would you - would you - would you want a breathing machine to keep you alive?

FATHER
What kind of question is that?

BROTHER
Well it's a question we should know in case.

FATHER
In case what?

BROTHER
In case something happens.

SISTER
Nothing's going to happen right now, nothing new.

BROTHER
Right, it's a procedure, it's something they want for their records.

FATHER
Who?

SISTER
The people who run the place, the Valley View.

FATHER
What the hell kind of hotel is it?

BROTHER
Dad, it's not a hotel, it's a nursing home.

FATHER
Unplug me.

BROTHER
What?

FATHER
Pull the plug.

BROTHER
Okay dad, so now once we unplug you...

FATHER
I'm dead.

BROTHER
Right. And then we ...

FATHER
What?

BROTHER
What do we do with you?

FATHER
Bury me. What are you a bunch of idiots? You bury me.

ATKINSON
Can you just tell me what you think the father is thinking in the middle of all this because you're running around trying to look after him and he's the guy with the dementia?

LINNEY
Well I have no idea what someone in that situation would go through, the only thing I do know is that - when my stepfather was dying there are moments of extreme humour that do stick with you, in some ways it what gives me - my heart sort of grows a few sizes whenever I think of him in intensive care, thinking that we were in France, you know, convinced that we were not in the intensive care unit at Mount Sinai Hospital, New York City but we were really at the Ritz in France. And I love that memory, I love the fact that he thought that I had polka dots all over my face and he was trying to brush them off me. And there are things like that - you know I was actually happy that he thought he was in France, I was thrilled that he thought that's where he was at the Ritz.

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