Middle aged men and women living with Down syndrome and working at a Chilean catering school struggle to gain their independence and autonomy in filmmaker Maite Alberdi’s equally hilarious and heartbreaking The Grown-Ups, one of the most moving films to play this year’s festival.
Predominantly following four students who have been there in some cases for almost 40 years – including Ricardo, the take charge student leader, the free spirited Rita, and Anita and Andres, a romantically involved couple who wish to marry (despite a law against people with Down syndrome marrying in Chile) – Alberdi has captured something both endearing and purposefully infuriating.
These men and women are no longer young, and despite having a great work ethic and intelligence comparable to or surpassing those of average adults, they’re still held back by society, and their sunny dispositions are starting to slip in favour of very real adult frustrations. Often paid only $5 to $10 a week for their work, there’s no way they can ever save enough to “buy their way out” of a system designed to keep them segregated from everyday society.
It’s wonderful and eye opening to spend time with these remarkably, hard working, thoughtful human beings, but by the end of Alberdi’s film, you’ll immediately want to help them attain the autonomous lives they deserve and yearn for.