Dementia is a disease that is so common that everyone can imagine what it means if it affects you, your partner or one of your parents. Of course, it’s awful to see a loved one go down, knowing that every time you say goodbye to them, it could be the last time they recognize you. In his case, filmmaker Ruud Lenssen took up the camera and recorded the irreversible dementia process of his father Jac in the personal documentary “Wei”. A special role is reserved for his caregiver mother Ria.
Jac and Ria got married somewhere in the seventies or eighties of the last century and are actually still in the middle of life when Jac is diagnosed with vascular dementia. His memory is deteriorating rapidly. It is clear that this starts with little things, like the name of the bird that Jac cannot think of at the beginning of the documentary.
Ria tries to be there for her husband as much as possible, but it is tough. If she wants to go to her regular dance evening, she has to put a note for him so that he still knows where she is. Repeatedly she has to explain what time she will be back, even though this is probably a recurring appointment for years. Worse are the scolding guns that Jac fires at her. He calls her out for anything ugly and bad, like when she grumbles about the tobacco that Jac throws on the floor.
Her biggest concern, however, is Jac’s greatest love, the meadow. The plot offers space for chickens and two ponies, contains a piece of woodland and a vegetable garden “and my sweat”, says Jac, in a bright and comical moment. It is certainly true, it takes a lot of effort and time to maintain the pasture and that is becoming increasingly difficult. Ria would prefer to get rid of the ponies before it really is no longer possible, but Jac disagrees. It is one of the many struggles the couple faces. Not much later, it is Jac’s farewell that becomes irrevocable and increasingly realistic. How long is it still safe to let him live at home?
“Wei” is a beautifully shot and honest document of a process of which unfortunately you can predict the end. It is sometimes distressing to see Jac raging, and your heart breaks as the ponies are loaded into the trailer on their way to their new home. Ruud Lenssen does not hesitate to show the less beautiful sides of his parents’ marriage, and that is precisely why a rare loving moment is all the more endearing. “Wei” may not be basically new, but it clearly shows how fleeting life is and how important family can be.