Based on Pat Moffett’s stirring memoir, the autobiographical drama Ice Cream in the Cupboard tackles the devastation of Alzheimer’s disease. The film opens with the unexpected meet-cute and first date of a fresh-faced Pat (Garrett Mercer) and the spirited Carmen (Andrea London). Then, a sudden flash forward thrusts us into the present, where the couple, now in their 50s, have two children and are celebrating their anniversary. Their marriage is stable and loving, aside from Carmen’s (Claudia Ferri) sporadic physical and verbal attacks on Pat (Dana Ashbrook). She also has random memory lapses where she leaves ice cream in the cupboard, or worse, forgets where her house is.
A visit to the doctor leads to the terrible discovery that Carmen has early onset Alzheimer’s. Director Drew Pollins artfully puts the audience inside her muddled and deteriorating mind through the use of hazy and blindingly white shots; these disorienting images convey her overwhelming confusion and struggle to hold on to her intellect. Ferri’s remarkable performance captures a fiery woman whose glow is gradually fading. It is heartbreaking to see how much she regresses to a childlike state where she has to attend daycare.
Ashbrook gives a sturdy performance as the supportive and devoted Pat who strives to do his best and remain positive despite the distressing situation. Carmen and Pat’s authentic and tender relationship is put into poignant focus through Pollins’ use of flashback. Seeing what they once had makes it all the more painful to witness Carmen’s waning cognizance. Pollins uses these flashbacks sparingly so that they pack an emotional punch.
Ice Cream in the Cupboard is a raw and realistic depiction of Alzheimer’s that is sorrowful without being cloying. It sheds light on the more violent aspects of the disease that are rarely talked about.
Many families dealing with this tragic illness will be able to relate to Pat and Carmen’s situation. Grounded by two strong central performances, the film offers a refreshing portrayal of an older couple’s intimacy. The piercing ending reminds us how lucky we are to love someone and ultimately our memories, even if they are lost, can never be erased.
Ice Cream in the Cupboard is available on digital now
by Caroline Madden
Caroline is the author of Springsteen as Soundtrack. Her favourite films include Dog Day Afternoon, Baby It’s You, Inside Llewyn Davis, and The Lord of the Rings. She is the Assistant Editor of Video Librarian and does social media for Passion River Films. She has an MA degree in Cinema Studies from SCAD. You can follow her on Twitter @crolinss.
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