“Edith + Eddie,” a short documentary vying for an Academy Award Sunday, is a gripping look at a couple in their 90s caught up in an intense family conflict over caring for an aging parent. As a columnist who covers aging, I’m familiar with such stories. But as I immersed myself in the details of this case, I found myself reaching a familiar conclusion: real life is more complicated than in the movies.
On my first viewing, the events depicted in the 29-minute film were unsettling. It begins in the fall of 2014 with Edith Hill, 96, and Eddie Harrison, 95, who were married only a few months before, enjoying a series of intimate moments — dancing together, holding hands, exercising and chatting comfortably. It ends months later with the couple being separated by Edith’s court-appointed legal guardian, with police on the scene, and Edith taken off abruptly to Florida. Shockingly, Eddie died only a few weeks later.
There are allegations from one of Edith’s daughters about money issues and possession of the family home, as well as insinuations of racism (Edith is black, Eddie is white). End of story for some viewers, maybe. But family disputes about how to care for frail, vulnerable elderly parents are my territory, inevitably complicated and full of unresolved emotional issues. I started wondering about questions the film failed to address.