Complaints of a Dutiful Daughter

Director: Deborah Hoffmann
Screenwriters: Deborah Hoffmann

Institute History

  • 1995 Sundance Film Festival


Ronald Reagan’s recent revelation about being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease brought with it the inevitable jokes. Certainly Alzheimer’s is no laughing matter. Somehow, Deborah Hoffmann—in this supremely sensitive and moving account of various stages in her mother’s condition—allows us to laugh with her as she deals with the absurdities inherent in an experience that embodies confusion, disorientation, and obsession.

So many people, when first encountering this disease in a loved one, feel a sense of inevitable decline and subsequent hopelessness. Decline seems to be inevitable, but hopelessness need not be. Hoffmann’s first breakthrough comes when she lets go of her need to correct her mother’s confusions. It is a liberating moment when she realizes that it is the feeling, not the accuracy, of what her mother says that is important. Further, after the initial trauma of trying to locate somewhere for her increasingly disoriented mother to live, she is fortunate to find an enlightened facility exclusively for those with Alzheimer’s, a place that allows people to have their dementia, to live in the moment. An experienced editor (The Times of Harvey Milk, Color Adjustment), Hoffmann, in this courageous directorial debut, manages not only to be entertaining and informative but also to offer inspiration and hope.

— Robert Hawk

Screening Details

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