‘What They Had’ is a nuanced portrayal of caregivers

As we grow older, many of us become caregivers. This is pretty common. However, it’s not common to see a nuanced portrayal of caregivers and their loved ones in media. “What They Had,” a 2018 film from director Elizabeth Chomko, changes that. The film stars Hillary Swank, Michael Shannon, Blythe Danner, and Robert Forster).

Ruth (Danner) is an aging wife and mother who is experiencing dementia. When she leaves her house, disoriented, her family gathers to decide how to best care for her. Many shows and movies portray the experience of Alzheimer’s as a person who is constantly confused. However, if you have ever known someone with dementia, you know this isn’t quite true. Instead, “What They Had” paints a more accurate picture, depicting Ruth as in and out of comprehension. 

“What They Had” tells the tale of a family full of unique and complex individuals. They all have needs and challenges that affect how they are able to care for both Ruth and Burt. Real-life caregivers have roles beyond simply caring for loved ones. One of the stronger aspects of the film is that it takes this into account. 

On the flip side, “What They Had” doesn’t accurately show how to prevent or respond to a crisis. Additionally, in real life there are supportive services and safety measures that can help people prevent incidents like the one shown. Furthermore, there are a variety of care options people can utilize to support their loved ones. Still, “What They Had” is an emotional and heartwarming film. Many caregivers will see their journeys and most importantly, their love reflected in it.

What They Had is available to rent through Amazon Prime. You may also be able to rent it through your local library.

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