MEANING OF ‘GENTLY’ ―GRANDMA HAD DEMENTIA by HIROMI TAKAGI

Directed by  Hiromi Takagi/ Reviewed by Provesha Pyne

We have a heart deeper than the ocean
Deeper than the deepest ocean
So please don’t turn away in despair
Take a close look. Believe yourself,
May your heart be deeper
Deeper than the ocean
These lyrics echo the beautiful message embedded in the heart of the film. The
profound love Miyu has for her beloved grandma Kiyo makes its presence felt. She remembers her great-grandmother and the gentleness with which she always treated the former. 

Hiromi Takagi has brilliantly brought to life Miyu Miwa’s words, through the portrayal of Miyu and her small family as they cope with grandma Kiyo’s dementia. The film is based on Miyu Miwa’s essay ‘To Be Gentle’. Awarded with the award for best entry in the “Dementia Supporter Essay Contest for Elementary and Junior High School Students in Tsuruga city”.

We are immediately thrown into the crux of the story when we see Miyu with tears in her eyes, gazing lovingly at a picture of her and her beloved granda Miyu.  Miyu, a fourth-grader, lives with her mother, her grandmother, her grandfather as well as her great grandmother. Happy and content, she has grown up in her loving household till one day when she realises that her great grandmother Kiyo seems to be forgetting things very easily.

Takagi beautifully captures the youthful innocence in Miyu as she learns to navigates her life and understand the consequences of living with dementia. Unable to understand why her great-grandmother fumbles and is forgetful, she loses her patience and snaps at the latter. 

Here, Takagi allows for feelings of remorse and impatience as Miyu regrets how she treats her grandmother. Still a child, she has yet to learn that elderly people need to be treated with care, kindness and love. One needs to be gentle with one’s grandparents. Instead of reprimanding her, Miyu’s grandmother Mieko gently reminds her to treat her great-grandmother with respect and love. 

Understanding the needs of her great-grandmother Miyu is gentle with her. She
realises that the older people get, the more care and gentleness they need. Having understood, this she, in turn, makes an effort to better herself. Kindness begets kindness. Mieko comprehends this as she teaches Miyu an important life lesson with the same gentleness she expects from her grand-daughter. 

Takagi wonderfully encapsulates the childlike innocence of the elderly Kiyo.
Dementia has been highlighted as a behavioural syndrome that affects not only the patient but also the family members. The affected individual finds oneself in a world where things are confusing and nothing seems clear. Takagi portrays this brilliantly.  The love of a grand-daughter for her grandmother is summed up in the song she sings for latter’s birthday celebration. Bringing out the essence of goodness in Kiyo, Takagi illustrates how little things make the world of difference for elders like her. 

Affected by dementia, Kiyo understands how her family is more careful around her. It hurts her pride to accept that she is dependent on her family. She refuses to accept that her forgetfulness is the cause of her misplacing objects. 
Finally, Miyu attends a class on dementia and learns all about it. She understands what her Grandma Kiyo is going through.

Unfortunately, that very day, Kiyo succumbs to the flu she contracted and passed away soon after. 
Miyu is inconsolable and regrets not treating her grandma Kiyo better. However, she soon realises that she can help others with dementia. Wearing her orange dementia supporter’s band, she moves forward in life pledging to help those she can. 

A heartfelt portrayal of the simple things in life, Meaning of ‘Gently’ poses a striking account of appreciating people while they are present in our lives.

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