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Malcolm and Barbara - A Love Story (1999)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Black and white photographs of Malcolm Pointon as a boy are intercut with shots of him in an agitated state resulting from the early stages of Alzheimer's Disease. His wife Barbara soothes Malcolm. A lifelong musician, Malcolm provides much of the soundtrack with his delicate piano playing. Barbara's account of hearing Malcolm's diagnosis is intercut with photographs of their wedding day. She says that his illness is like a death sentence.

Extracts from Malcolm's diary from the recent and distant past, cine film of their wedding day and photographs of Malcolm and Barbara's earlier life together are all juxtaposed with the daily routine of their lives as Malcolm's condition deteriorates.

Barbara helps Malcolm dress in the morning and prepare for bed in the evening. Caring for Malcolm at home becomes an increasing struggle. Barbara speaks of the difficulty in remaining loving when Malcolm hurts her physically and is sometimes deliberately provocative.

Malcolm still plays the piano with skill and delicacy, but he is becoming a stranger to Barbara. He has periods in respite care in a mental hospital, during one of which he stops playing the piano. His behaviour becomes more defiant. Barbara speaks of feeling trapped and very alone, although she still loves him. Barbara moves Malcolm into a private nursing home so that he can have a comfortable end. It is expected that he will soon die.