Historically, America's elderly have lived out their lives with families, but in the last few generations, many have spent their later years in assisted living facilities. Directed and produced by Jenks, Andrew Jenks, Room 335 sheds light on this phenomenon, subtly questioning the values of a country that does not entirely value or embrace its older citizens. The film shows how young people can give something back to those who came before them, emphasizing the point that older people still have much to offer society.
After settling into his cozy room at Harbor Place, near Port St. Lucie, Florida, Jenks meets as many of the residents as he can, forging bonds with the half-dozen who are the primary focus of the film. Among those he encounters are: Tammy is an energetic 95-year-old with a keen sense of humor and a mind as sharp as a tack. Upon meeting Jenks, she informs him that the medication in her pharmacy bag is "birth control pills." Though Tammy has seen everyone she loves come and go, she still has a positive attitude about life and continues to embrace new friends, including Jenks.
Bill is initially cold towards Jenks, but quickly opens up and develops a true friendship. The 80-year-old makes daily ventures across the high way to the Dollar Store, where he buys pens, mugs, teddy bears and lots of candy for other residents. Bill and Andrew often play baseball - not with a regular bat and ball, but with a cane and soda can. They also talk about Bill's "girlfriends" in the nursing home and test their strength by arm-wrestling.
Dotty, a frail 80-year-old, is forced to go into the hospital several times during filming. Having no immediate family, she has been placed in the assisted living facility by an outsider. After rallying several times, Dotty returns to the hospital for good. In an extremely moving moment, Jenks prays over her listless figure in the hospital bed and Dotty weakly raises her hands in prayer, telling him, "Thank you."
Throughout Jenks' stay, he sees these and other inhabitants of Harbor Place through their ups and downs, getting to know them as individuals, not stereotypes. As their friend and confidant, he comes to realize that the friendship and interaction he can offer as a younger person are as valuable to the residents as their goodwill and life lessons are to him.
Concludes Jenks, "We're all gonna grow old at some point. Does this mean we're going to be neglected too? Despite their old age and declining health, people like Bill and Tammy still have love and wisdom to give to society. I really didn't know what to expect when I arrived at Harbor Place, but I found it to be a world of incredible passion, a world with friends that I will never forget."
Andrew Jenks, Room 335 is Jenks' first film. The founder of the Hendrick Hudson Film Festival in New York, he has been working in Japan for the past year on his next project, about Bobby Valentine, the former Mets baseball manager who has become a national icon there. Jenks is still enrolled at NYU at the Tish School of the Arts.
HBO Films presents a Hemi Productions Film. Music superivsor Sean O'Neill; director of photography Jonah Quickmire Pettigrew; assistant director William Godel; edited by Andrew Jenks and Jonah Quickmire Pettigrew; produced and directed by Andrew Jenks. For Home Box Office: consulting editor Geof Bartz, A.C.E., supervising producer John Hoffman; executive producer Sheila Nevins.
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