One of my goals in learning Spanish is to experience art. Art (particularly from other cultures) brings you out of your comfort zone. It forces you to look at life differently and love it despite the challenges it brings. This film focuses on the part of life that many of us shy away from confronting, growing old and the twilight of life. Aging is inevitable, and many of us are or will be caretakers of our parents and grandparents. The last years of caring for my grandmother were hard for my mother and me. It was painful to watch the woman I had known all my life slip away one piece at a time. Wrinkles is an honest introspection of the topic. 

Wrinkles (Arrugas in Spanish) is based on the comic by Paco Roca and directed by Ignacio Ferreras. It has won two Goya Awards (Spain’s national annual film awards) for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Animated Film.

The story follows the lives of the residents in a retirement home in Spain. The newest occupant is Emilio, a retired bank manager with growing signs of dementia. Miguel, his roommate and guide to the place, introduces us to the complex but frustrated and clockwork lives of the other residents. While being one of the few residents with a clean bill of mental health, he spends his time conning the other residents out of their retirement savings and smuggling in contraband.

Emilio and Miguel’s friendship forms the basis for the film’s drama, with both trying to find ways to make the most of the time they have left. Things are further complicated by Emilio’s own deteriorating mental state and his frequent loss of memories. Over everyone is the looming threat of being sent to the 3rd floor where the invalids are sent, never to return. Is Miguel conning him as well, or is he his only way to prevent the one-way trip upstairs?

The film portrays life in a nursing home as a modest answer to caring for the elderly. Emilio’s family clearly loves him, but they are absent for most of the film (except for the obligatory holiday visit). While competent and caring, the staff can only give the facade that all the needs of the residents are met. The pool, which was brought up in the initial tour as something that could distract Emilio as a former swimmer, is left locked. A pool with no swimmers has no chance of accidents, but what is the point if it’s not used? A life without risks has no chance of pain, but what is the point without joy?

I praise the film for the frank humanness of the characters. No one is a saint, but they are genuine. Emilio is hard to like sometimes; he’s mean and cranky and lets other people know it. Even Miguel, who swindles the other residents in various creative ways, ends up being the moral center of the film and undergoes the most development. He’s the one that pushes the other characters to take risks, to make their remaining time matter, if only to them.

I highly recommend this film to anyone with a taste for foreign animation. Growing old doesn’t mean the end of life. Love your parents and grandparents and do your best to make their remaining years, not just comfortable but meaningful.

Watch it Now on Kanopy (English or Spanish)