Saturday, February 09, 2008
Andrew Jenks, Room 335
So yesterday, my boss told me about a documentary film that was made called Andrew Jenks, Room 335. It's about a 19-year-old film student who moves into an assisted-living retirement home for a month, and documents the whole experience. I had never heard of the film before.
Uh oh, I thought. That sounds very similar to the plot of my novel, Into the Sunset. In my book, a 30-year-old bachelor moves into an assisted living community—except he is disguised as an old gent. But my book is fictional and a comedy, so the book and the film are different. Still, I had that little queasy feeling in my gut that someone else had already come up with a similar idea and gotten it out to the world before I did. Thankfully, though, my novel has already been published, and is receiving good reviews, so I don't feel as if I had been scooped.
Back to the film. Turns out there was a free screening of the film tonight, and my friend Joe and I went to check it out. The director, film student Andrew Jenks (who coincidentally is also from Westchester County like me), spent a month living in Harbor Place, a senior residence in Florida. He brought along two buddies who helped film the whole experience.
Jenks is a smart filmmaker. The story isn't about him living in Harbor Place, it's about the elderly residents who do. He lets them take center stage, as we get to meet these wonderful people. People like fiesty 96 year-old Tammy, and Bill, who wears a different Hawaiian shirt every day. And Dotty, and Libby, and Josie.
Andrews Jenks, Room 335 has been called funny, sad, and heartwarming, and I totally agree with this description. Do yourself a favor and see this film.
And by the way—now that I've seen the film, I don't have that queasy feeling anymore. The film and my novel are similar in plot, and even in theme—of how the elderly are viewed in our society—but the two pieces of art handle the story differently (plus mine is fiction), and there is room for both. Seeing the documentary also made me feel good about my own work, in that—though I never lived in a senior community—I feel that I got much of it right. I don't mean just the details, but the human element. The funny parts and the sad parts, too.