Film Review: THE MOLE AGENT (directed by Maite Alberdi)

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by Tony Frankel on November 12, 2020

in Film


Sure to be the sentimental favorite at DOC NYC and regions beyond, The Mole Agent is a bittersweet, comical documentary that, as with any great spy story, has a terrific twist. Director Maite Alberdi puts a cute spin on from the start, where slanted blinds make a noirish presence in the office of private detective Romulo Aitken. He has been hired by the daughter of a senior citizen residing in a nursing home in Santiago, Chile. The daughter believes her mom is being mistreated — possibly even abused. Aitken puts an ad in the paper seeking an 80- to 90-year-old man to infiltrate the home for three months, complete with up-to-date spyware such as glasses with a camera in the frame.

The interviews are hilarious, as men who swear they understand technology can barely answer a phone. The choice is Sergio Chamy, a recently widowed family man who needs the job as a distraction from his sadness. Sergio will ultimately learn the difference between being snoopy and surreptitious, not an easy thing to do when the soft-spoken, gentleman is one of just a few male residents in a place besieged with lonely women, one of whom decides she wants to marry Sergio at first site. Midway through the film, nothing is yet discovered that shocks in Sergios’s daily video diaries, but that’s when he begins to befriend these homebound women; what he discovers will melt, and ultimately break, your heart.

But did I miss something? The only confusing aspect was the film crew following our intrepid spy throughout the nursing home. At one point, three ladies on a bench acknowledge that they are being filmed, but if the spy is there to rat out any wrongdoings, wouldn’t the employees straighten up knowing a crew was there? Well, it’s a strange cunning notch in an otherwise perfect and heartfelt treatise on just who is neglecting our senior citizens. Besides, there’s a money shot with a boom mike going into the frame over the head of a lady who clandestinely tries to get others to notice. I howled. That is, until I wept.

photos courtesy of Gravitas Ventures

The Mole Agent
Gravitas Ventures
Chile | 2019 | documentary | 84 minutes
in Spanish with English subtitles
available at DOC NYC (Nov. 11-19) and streaming; available on Hulu November 20, 2020

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