“You’re special” states Ana’s mother during a heated discussion. The words hit Ana like a dagger as she is tired of being considered different. She longs to live a normal life on her own terms, one where she and her boyfriend Andrés can get married and have a place of their own. Unfortunately, the fact that both Ana and Andrés have Down Syndrome, and cannot wed according to Chilean law, complicates matters for the restless couple.
Maite Alberdi’s immensely charming and touching documentary The Grown-Ups observes the tug-of-war that many individuals with Down Syndrome face. They want to be independent and productive members of society, but their diagnosis is a constant and inescapable reminder of the harsh reality of their situation. Focusing on a catering school, which Ana has attended daily for over 40 years, specializing in teaching those with Down Syndrome both the basics of baking and essential life skills, Alberdi carefully shows how individuals like Ana and her peers are frequently trapped in a void. In their hearts, they are the 40-something people they want to be, yet they lack understanding when it comes to finances, sex and the responsibilities that come with being “conscious adults”.
It is this conflict that keeps the sweet Romeo and Juliet style love story at the film’s core so intriguing. Alberdi skillfully uses Ana’s desire to break the monotony as a gateway into understanding some of the defiant acts that her fellow students perpetrate. The Grown-Ups treats its subjects with the utmost respect, while offering an honest look at middle-age individuals who are still viewed as children by society. Instead of passing judgment, Alberdi’s film simply lets the students speak for themselves and asks that we truly listen
The Grown-Ups plays Hot Docs on:
Friday, April 28, 12:30 PM, Isabel Bader
Tuesday, May 2, 3:15 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Thursday, May 4, 7:00 PM, Hart House
Saturday, May 6, 5:30 PM, Fox Theatre