Make Way For Tomorrow (MWFT) was added to the America’s National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 2010. America’s Film Legacy (2011) by Daniel Eagan …is a reference guide to the most significant films ever made in the United States. Unlike opinionated “Top 100” and arbitrary “Best of” lists, these are the real thing: groundbreaking films that make up the backbone of American cinema. In five pages Eagan documents all aspects of the film: the production, the author of the book the film is based on, information about the main actors, the studios, the director and his style and the reception by critics and audiences. But unfortunately he does not refrain from voicing his own ‘not opinionated or arbitrary ? ‘ comments. He starts by berating the critics who …love to write about Make Way For Tomorrow, usually with a hectoring tone. They can’t understand why the film is not better known, implying that something is wrong with moviegoers for not embracing it…. a film so painful and despairing…. MWFT is a film that ask too much of its viewers.
He continues with the most ageist paragraph I have come across in film criticism: …The way McCarey poses it, it’s a lopsided argument in favour of Moore and Bondi. The story omits the demands, the illnesses, the bad sleep, the medicines and special diets the elderly require, the needs that can be so hard to fill. Instead McCarey seems to be saying if children were only nicer or richer their parents would not have to suffer.
Why does Eagan not accept the couple as McCarey presents them? They are 70 years old not in bad health apart from a tendency to lung problems in the man. What he seems to be saying is that the ‘elderly’ have demands that cannot be fulfilled, that they are a burden whatever the circumstances. That the ‘elderly’ will suffer no matter what.
That he can express this ageist view in a guide that is supposed to be objective is not acceptable. But to be as inaccurate as in the following pronouncement leads one to suspect his judgement that he puts in brackets: (The film also doesn’t explain how the parents got into their mess, an omission that lets critics from both sides of the political spectrum to praise it. Some leftists have found it a Marxist film that criticises capitalism, a conclusion that would have infuriated the notoriously right-wing director.)
It is very clear that Bark has been unemployed for four years, has defaulted on his mortgage payments and that the family house has been repossessed. There is enough evidence in the portrayal of the couple and their children situations (specially the rich objectionable son-in-law) for us to imagine the psychological factors that made him wait for the last-minute until revealing the situation to his children and asking for their help.
How come that a critic who writes for Film Comment Magazine, Film Journal International, Hollywood Reporter and the important Film Guide mentioned above, a critic who is Tomatometer-approved is allowed to write such nonsense? Does he really think that ageing is all about suffering? Does he really think that the financial status of the old makes no difference to their lives?
How come these ageist opinions have escaped the editor?
I am outraged.