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Waiting for the Telegram (1998)


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!

Violet, an elderly woman in a nursing home, has been disturbed by a flasher, though she finds the subsequent interrogation by Nurse Bapty, with its references to erect penises and flying the flag of gender, just as intrusive. Another nurse, Devon, claims to have been named after her parents' favourite holiday spot, and is unamused when Violet jokes that it's a good thing that it wasn't Skegness. Her favourite nurse is Francis, who calls her his girlfriend.

Violet has difficulty remembering names and words. When her son Donald visits, she doesn't recognise him. She assumes she must have been married, but she can't remember her husband. She remembers one young man, but is sure it wasn't him.

Other patients suffer from more pronounced delusions. Rene is convinced that a taxi is coming, to take her to her parents in Armley, though they're clearly long dead. Violet objects to wearing tangerine, and is convinced that her legs aren't hers, citing a previous mix-up with false teeth as evidence that such things happen. Francis seems oddly withdrawn, and occasionally disappears for a check-up.

As the oldest resident, Violet is picked to be the subject of a school history project. Young Spencer asks her about whether things were better in the past, but she misunderstands the question and thinks he's asking about her health. Francis attempts to clarify matters, but this triggers off memories of a disastrous evening prior to her boyfriend's departure for France where she refused to let him seduce her: her sense of propriety overrode her own deep desires.

She has never forgiven herself for this, especially as she later heard that he was killed in action, the news being conveyed by a telegram from the King. Apparently she's due to receive a similar telegram on her next birthday, but for a very different reason. Francis observes that throughout this anecdote, Violet has been completely clear, never once stumbling over the words.

Francis comes down with pneumonia and dies. Devon says it was due to his sexual orientation and that he'd have died soon anyway. Violet pretends that she knew all along. Rene dies shortly afterwards. Violet wishes they allowed her to have a pet. She strokes and sings to her hand as though it was a living creature.