There is no First World country that treats it’s senior citizens as badly as the United States. Basically, if you don’t have a huge retirement plan and healthcare, you are essentially screwed, as we see a huge number of elderly amongst the homeless population, because you simply cannot live off of Social Security alone in this country. Herein lies the story told in by first time director Sian-Pierre Regis in his documentary “DUTY FREE”. Sadly, the story is about his own mother, Rebecca Danigelis, who at the age of 75, (well past the age of “retirement”) is fired from her job as a Housekeeping Supervisor at a hotel in Boston, where she has worked most of her life.
There is a lot of backstory given here as well as we follow how Rebecca came here from Liverpool, U.K., with her U.S. husband at the time. They soon divorced and she found herself in a relationship with Sian-Pierre’s father, who she then finds out, has a complete other family as well. So she is left raising two boys in a very miniscule apartment, on her own. As what is happening to her begins to unfold, Sian-Pierre gets the idea to make a documentary about not just her life, but what she would have wanted to really do in her life – hence, make a bucket list. He creates not just a Kickstarter account to fund this endeavor, but an Instagram as well, to document it all. Rebecca lists some pretty wonderful things for a woman in her 70’s to accomplish, most notably; milking a cow, sky diving, hip hop dancing, and probably the most challenging of all – reuniting with her long lost daughter and seeing her family, including a brother whom she hasn’t seen in 40+ years – back in Liverpool. This is kind of a dark path and should be seen by the viewer as each person can have their own take on how she dealt with what she did.
It is heartwarming to watch Sian-Pierre be so kind and compassionate to his mother and to watch them bond with one another, on the other hand, watching this elderly woman get eviction notices and try to get employment in a society where ageism is BEYOND prevalent, is also maddening and hard. Though at a quick run-time of 1 hour and 13 minutes, it’s misses the mark on perhaps telling us the true social impact of all this, and focuses on the niceties of the fun they have maybe a bit too much, whereas this is a huge, daunting issue, that I wish would have just been a bit more insightful on the bigger problem as a whole.
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Review Screening: Courtesy of ~ 42 West PR
“DUTY FREE” IS CURRENTLY OUT IN SELECT THEATERS AND ON DEMAND