THE MOLE AGENT – A Review by Cynthia Flores
There is a famous quote from Mark Twain that says: “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” That insight describes the new documentary, The Mole Agent, perfectly. It feels like it could be a fictional movie because it is so wacky and sublime at times. However, it’s actually a documentary about a real case for a detective agency as it unfolds in real-time in a nursing home. The talent of Chilean director Maite Alberdi shines through on this project. She has developed a documentary filmmaking style that achieves an intimate portrayal of the characters she works with through everyday stories in small-scale worlds. For The Mole Agent, it’s in a nursing home in San Francisco.
In this documentary, when a family becomes concerned about their mother’s well-being in a retirement home, they hire a private investigator named Romulo. You’re hooked on this film when you see all of the older gentlemen applying for the job posted in the paper by the detective agency. The ad specified, looking for an 80 to 90 years old man comfortable with technology. Romulo hires Sergio, an 83-year-old man who becomes a new resident and a mole inside the facility. Sergio was right for the job because he had good health, good memory, and did not have a wife that would complain about his three-month stint of living at the facility. He had recently been widowed and wanted the job to help him break out of his routine and spark new joy. This was important to the detective that his mole did not regret taking the job or want to leave prematurely. He needed someone excited about the work. Sergio must find his mark, Sofia, and not get caught by the staff documenting how she is treated. He struggles to balance his assignment while also becoming increasingly involved in the lives of several residents.
When asked what was hardest about filming inside a retirement home, Alberdi is quoted as saying, “Knowing how to film without too much eagerness. In the every day of these places, there aren’t always big things happening. Rather, the documentary is built of small moments.” She goes on to say, “Routines are established, and we become accustomed to certain times of the day that go by more slowly — life and filming are lived in another rhythm. We needed to be patient. The retirement home was also a space where we were surrounded by love and pain. We shared moments with many people who died and were already part of our lives, which becomes a shared experience when making documentaries. The lives of others become our own lives; the pains of those spaces become our own pains.”
At the heart of The Mole Agent is pure laugh out loud comedy. Sergio is the anti-spy, an old man who has to be a detective and doesn’t take to it immediately. The nursing home is a space where there are supposedly serious crimes to investigate. Still, in reality, it’s a well-run place. Don’t get me wrong, the film gets deep as well. It shows the touching and heartfelt truths of people struggling with old age, connection, and families abandoning them. If you don’t shed a tear or two, you don’t have a heart. But watching Sergio deal with his own grief and making new friends is a gift to us as the viewers. It’s the kind of film that I want to wrangle everybody I possibly can into watching because it is so full of life and laughter.
I give The Mole Agent 5-stars. After you watch it, if you’re lucky enough to still have your mom and dad around, you’ll want to call them or visit them this weekend.
Directed by: Maite Alberdi
Written by: Maite Alberdi
Selig Rating 5 Stars
Running Time: 1hr 29min
Release: September 1st VOD and Theaters soon
The Selig Rating Scale:
5 Stars – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
4 Stars – Good movie
3 Stars – OK movie
2 Stars – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
1 Star – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.