Milwaukee Film Festival 2016: Home Care
By Andrea Thompson
Serving others is all well and good, but as the middle-aged home care nurse Vlasta (the remarkable Alena Mihulová) discovers, it can also make everyone, including yourself, forget that you also have needs. But Vlasta gets a wake-up call in the Czech film “Home Care” when she discovers she has cancer, and it's the type that's expected to kill her in less than a year. So she begins a journey of self-discovery. Along the way, “Home Care” makes a remarkably good case for alternative medicine without presenting it as a cure-all or descending into self-parody. By eschewing the medicine she has spent her life embracing, and following the guidance of the other women she befriends, Vlasta is able to have a remarkable quality of life, but she discovers to her dismay that it can't cure what ails her and will eventually kill her. Since this isn't the story of a wealthy, upper class woman who is able to majestically float on a cloud of privilege while she contemplates the meaning of existence, Vlasta takes a more humanistic, humorous approach as she grieves her fate, as do the people around her. Her husband is well-meaning, but is very used to being his own needs coming first. Her daughter is not quite so insensitive, but she has also become used to her mother's constant availability and must cope with time running out. Director Slávek Horák also does a masterful job of incorporating Vlasta's small town and all its intricate details into a journey that always feels poignant without being mawkish. Sometimes the movie feels a bit too quiet and overly long, but mostly it is a moving depiction of life, even as the darkness beckons.