'Archaeology of a Woman': Film Review

Courtesy of Emerald Pictures


An embarrassingly off-key illness drama

A chef struggles to manage her mother's increasing dementia

A seemingly well-intentioned but deeply flawed film about dementia that becomes as erratic and misguided as its protagonist, Sharon Greytak's Archaeology of a Woman does no favors to those afflicted with cognitive disease or those hoping to understand them. Amateurishly made and lacking any draw beyond a subject that is sadly relevant to most of us, its commercial prospects are nil.

Sally Kirkland plays Margaret, whose increasing episodes of absent-mindedness require daughter Kate (Victoria Clark) to start commuting from her chef gig in New York to keep tabs on her. As Kate struggles with selling Mom on the prospect of a nursing home, persuasive scenes of friction and eggshell-walking alternate with scenes awkwardly hinting at a crime in Margaret's past.

Viewers inclined to interpret painfully stiff dialogue ("we come to the aid of many in this town," says a cop who might prefer to drawl "just doin' my job, ma'am") as proof of a filmmaker's theatrical roots are evidently wrong, because even though Greytak is clumsy with a camera (reaction shots in a beauty-salon confrontation don't match up at all), she's worse with the cause and effect of drama. When hints of a crime lead to outright violence an hour into the film, characters' actions obstinately refuse to respond to the events preceding them. Things grow increasingly clumsy from here, as Greytak drops her mystery plot entirely in favor of a fantasized final scene that plays like the first-semester work of a student obsessed with David Lynch.

Production company: Emerald Pictures

Cast: Sally Kirkland, Victoria Clark, Karl Geary, James Murtaugh

Director-Screenwriter: Sharon Greytak

Producers: Sharon Greytak, Idanna Pucci, Terence Ward

Director of photography: Gus Sacks

Production designer: Emmeline Wilks-Dupoise

Editors: Ulysses Guidotti, Marian Sears Hunter

Music: Heather Schmidt

No rating, 94 minutes