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“The Eternal Memory” reviewed

There are no interviews in this story of the marriage of Chilean journalist Augusto Góngora and his wife, Paulina Urrutia. It’s just footage of the couple over the period after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Director Maite Alberdi follows Augusto and Pauli as she continues to care for him, engaging him in conversations that allow him to recover particular memories, or even to delight in hearing about events in his own life as if for the first time. Alberdi also documents his long history in journalism, including his participation in documenting the Pinochet government.

If you have known and loved anyone who experienced any kind of dementia, you’ll likely find it both painful and moving to watch Pauli act on her determination to make his life as good as possible for as long as possible, and to watch him struggle with what he cannot do while also being still delighted by things he discovers he can do, can remember, can get pleasure and meaning from hearing about. This illness is grimly predictable, in that it moves in one direction only. So there is not the tension of hoping for a miracle that will restore Augusto’s memory or his function, as there is in some stories of life with an illness. But the love story of these two, and the way Pauli makes her way through extraordinarily difficult moments in which he is upset or frightened, feels surprising over and over.