I’ll Be Here for a While

By Dakota and Dylan Pailes-Friedman | Drama
A young man struggles with being his mother's caretaker.

Lenny is the primary caretaker of his elderly mother Ruth. Lenny is a young man in the prime of his early adulthood, and yet he’s become responsible for his mom, who is steadily fading into cognitive decline.

Their situation is complicated by their relationship. Ruth has been a stern woman and mother, and she and Lenny have been somewhat estranged. Lenny struggles with his responsibility for his mom, and yet feels resentment at the loyalty being exacted from him.

Writing and directing team Dylan and Dakota Pailes-Friedman’s dramatic short is a meditative portrait of the complexity of familial bonds, sensitive to the ebbs and flows of the emotional undercurrents between family members, especially when the longtime roles are reversed.

The storytelling outlines a deeply painful and emotionally complicated situation, but the forward thrust of the film isn’t carried by dramatic actions or events. Instead, the emotions and imaginative pull are generated by the film’s often exquisite visuals and sounds, which are guided by the reveries and meditations of its characters.

The subjects of each shot are often ordinary: a man sorting pills at a kitchen table, a doctor and Lenny talking in a hospital hall. But they’re framed and photographed in a way that makes their mundane and ordinary nature both abstract and luminous, where the small details hold hidden portents. They are also interspersed with visions of the past, rendered with more formality and saturation that emphasizes both their vividness and their power.

The images are often held for longer than typical in Western filmmaking as well, giving viewers breathing room to take in the poetic, ineffable details of life. Through its sense of flow, the film feels much like a waking dream: soft, disassociative and uncanny, like it’s wandered into a memory-making itself as it happens.

In many ways, the filmmaking captures how Ruth is experiencing time and space in her decline, as her son Lenny finds himself stranded in the slow descent with her. While they may share the same frame, they seem very separate, occupying different worlds, though they share the same house. Yet when Ruth reaches out to Lenny, even in a small way, the role reversal seems solidified — and Lenny finds himself pulled into the dreamier, free-associative realm of his mother at the end.

“I’ll Be Here for a While” is a beautiful film less concerned about what happens next and more about capturing the inner subjective experience of two people held by a bond that seems equal parts burdensome resentment and familial love. The command of the visual medium here aims to capture not necessarily a story, but an experience of drifting into a time and rhythm of a person’s twilight, and in the end, we can’t tell what is taking place in “reality,” and what exists in a dreamy netherworld of imagination. Like Lenny, we try to hold onto a thread of an outside world, but the call of loyalty and love often retains its pull, and casts its own power, shaping our selves and lives in ways we sometimes feel powerless against.

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