Czech director Slavek Horak makes his feature-length debut with Home Care, a depressing tale about a middle-aged woman in small-town Czech Republic holding it together after a grim medical diagnosis.
Home Care follows nurse Vlasta (Alena Mihulova), a home-care nurse who, as we see in the film, visits patients in their homes, doing rather unglamorous work, including bathing elderly and obese patients, taking them to hospital appointments and acting as a friend. She goes out of her way to care for her patients for little pay, much to the dismay of her husband (Bolek Polivka), who miserably points out that she spends more on transportation than she earns in pay. When Vlasta goes to her doctor for a check up, she discovers that she has a terminal disease and only a few months to live. Not wanting to let the diagnosis get the worst of her, she takes dance lessons and seeks alternative medical treatments from a daughter of a patient. At the same time, she continues to care for her own patients. Despite facing many obstacles, she faces death with dignity.
The film’s aesthetic and pacing is slower and perhaps duller than most Hollywood features, and this may be a turn off for a Canadian audience. But it’s a joy to watch Vlasta take pleasure in things that she hadn’t thought of doing pre-diagnosis: dyeing her hair, taking dancing lessons, and more fully appreciating her own patients’ needs and anxieties. It’s not an easy watch, but it’s easy to see why this film was the Czech Republic’s official choice for Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards.
Is Home Care essential festival viewing?
Home Care is a difficult movie to watch, both because of its subject matter and its slow pacing. But the rewards of watching a character struggle through adversity with dignity is well worth it.