The complexities of a mother's sacrifice are discovered when Eleanore, at age 91, moves her developmentally disabled son Ronnie into a group home, after 64 years of devoted companionship and daily ritual in their modest Pennsylvania farmhouse. ELEANORE & THE TIMEKEEPER chronicles the lives of Eleanore and Ronnie Hickman, the Director's grandmother and uncle. Shot on 16mm, the film is a quiet love story between a mother and son, which records the inevitable transformation in their relationship, and shifting definitions of home over a seven-year span.
Set in a farming and logging community in rural Pennsylvania, ELEANORE & THE TIMEKEEPER celebrates the minor spectacle of the everyday. The film attempts to neutralize mortality by weaving it into the natural cyclical structure of life. Pattern and repetition are important unifying themes. The soundtrack features a rich and textured musical score composed by the New York based string quartet ETHEL.
Re-framing social issues, including end of life preparations, resources for adults with disabilities, and loneliness among the elderly, ELEANORE & THE TIMEKEEPER is first and foremost a love story. It is the classic tale of a son's new-found independence, and a mother's empty nest syndrome, however delayed by some forty years in this case. Through the magnified lens of this mother and son relationship, ELEANORE & THE TIMEKEEPER celebrates life's natural cycles of monotony and impermanence.
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Chosen as one of the top 3 Chicago-made films of 2010...
"an extraordinary documentary, patient & gorgeous."
-- Christy LeMaster, Cine-File.Info
DVDs of 'Eleanore & the Timekeeper' on sale now!
Featuring illustrations by Emily Eddy & a bonus documentary about making the music for the film with ETHEL string quartet. Available by request with open-captioned (English) with an English transcript. For purchase or rental, please contact Danièle: hairlessfilms at gmail dot com
SELECTED REVIEWS & REFLECTIONS
"Award-winning Chicago filmmaker Danièle Wilmouth's first feature is an intimate portrait of the complex bond between her aging grandmother and developmentally disabled uncle in rural Pennsylvania. Companions for the last 64 years-in times both idyllic and difficult-Eleanore and Ronnie are forced to embark on new, separate lives in the face of Eleanore's advancing age and waning health. Ronnie finds new freedom in a group home while Eleanore copes with loneliness and heartbreak in the modest farmhouse where Ronnie grew up. Throughout this seven-year chronicle, Wilmouth meditates on the modest gestures and daily rituals that have bound the two together, tying them to the rhythms of small-town America and larger cycles of death and rebirth. The result is a clear-eyed and moving meditation on everyday life, transience, and familial love."
--- Amy Beste, Conversations at the Edge, Gene Siskel Film Center
"... a beautifully-lensed and patient documentary by local filmmaker Danièle Wilmouth set in rural Pennsylvania. Eleanore is the matriarch of Wilmouth's family (her grandmother) and the timekeeper is Ronnie, her developmentally disabled adult son (Wilmouth's uncle). As Eleanore has cared for Ronnie for over 60 years, their lives have become a quiet dance of routine and companionship, until Eleanore's failing health requires her to seek other ways to make sure Ronnie is cared for after her death. Wilmouth tells the story gracefully anddoesn't push her subjects to talk about how they are handling the change. Rather, her camera focuses in on the tiny details of small town living. A moving portrait of separation and mortality, ELEANORE gracefully displays the heart-wrenching sadness of losing your other half."
--- Christy LeMaster, Cine-File.info
"Documentary maker Danièle Wilmouth looks at her 85-year-old grandmother Eleanore and 62-year-old, mentally retarded uncle Ronnie, who have lived together in rural Pennsylvania for decades. Cognizant of her advancing age and waning vitality, Eleanore undertakes to find a group home for Ronnie; the new arrangement is a striking success but leaves her to cope with the abrupt rearrangement of her life's central relationship. Admirers of Sarah Polley's Away From Her (2006) will find much to appreciate in this similarly dry-eyed account of life's endgame."
--- Cliff Doerksen, Chicago Reader, Sept. 14, 2010
"... Wilmouth portrays Eleanore & Ronnie's daily life from a familiar reserve, showing us the quiet amenable ways in which the pair have adapted to each other. The routine is broken when Eleanore, more than 90 years old herself, must have knee surgery that will require weeks of recovery and rehabilitation. Who will look after Ronnie? While making arrangements for her son's temporary care, Eleanore confronts the hard reality that she will not always be there for him and, more startling, that he may be more self-sufficient than she thinks."
--- Ariella Ben-Dov, Artistic and Festival Director
34th Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival
"I was fortunate to be in the audience at the Margaret Mead Festival Saturday night, and to see your extraordinarily moving film. I'm writing because I wanted you to know that there was one audience member, and probably more, who felt like giving you a five-minute standing ovation. The cinematography, sound and editing are so strong. The film is fine art."
---- Caroline Chinlund, Psychotherapist & Clinical Psychologist
"Eleanore & the TIMEKEEPER offers the viewer insights into [Wilmouth's uncle and grandmother's] world with such ease that one feels she made the film about folks you have known all your life."
---- Shellie Fleming, Artist & Filmmaker
Producer, Director, Cinematographer
Original Music & Musical Foley
Ralph Farris (viola)
Mary Rowell (violin)
Cornelius Duffalo (violin)
Dorothy Lawson (cello)
Location Sound Recording
Tzu Han Wang
Do Yeon Kim
John Travis Stuntebeck