Synopsis by Nathan Southern
At the outset of the observational verité documentary Andrew Jenks Room 335, 19-year-old Jenks, a neophyte filmmaker, tells his therapist that he wants to actualize his feelings of being a social pariah by living among people who feel the same way he does - specifically, the residents of the Harbor Place retirement home in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Jenks moves into the facility in June 2005, with assistant director William Godel and cinematographer Quickmire Pettigrew in tow, who utilizes a tiny, unobtrusive 24p video camera to document the experience - thus achieving candor and intimacy. The film not only observes the aging process and the state of institutionalized care for the elderly (most of whom are octogenarians and nonagenarians) but studies the burgeoning (and utterly unexpected) cross-generational friendships that develop between Jenks and many of his newfound housemates. The film introduces us to such seniors as jocky 80-year-old Bill Delarm, who is initially introverted and laconic but who ultimately breaks down and becomes one of Jenks's best friends; 95-year-old Tammy Signorile, a devoted companion to two other women in the facility; blind Libby Smith; and Dotty Shepard, who sinks rapidly into debilitating illness over the course of the picture. Jenks includes many memorable sequences throughout, including an instance where the power in the home cuts out during a lightning storm, terrifying many residents. The final scenes of the picture witness Jenks departing with a firsthand, heightened knowledge of the elderly and a grave sadness at the thought of leaving his new friends behind - as well as a concern over their collective physical deterioration. From outset to conclusion, the approach remains sensitive, compassionate, and delicately-handled.
adolescence, blindness [physical], communication, experiment, nursing-home, outcast, retirement-home, therapist