The Long Way Home (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #852 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Public Service]

This film, sponsored by the United Fund, tells the story of Mr. Barker, an elderly man with no family whose money has run out and who “must seek shelter in a charitable institution.” He packs his few belongings in a suitcase and heads across town on foot to the old folks’ home that is to be his new home. But first he stops off at several other places, including a hospital where he receives radiation treatments for cancer, a “Golden Age Club” that is having a meeting and social hour, and a rehabilitation facility where a friend of his is getting physical therapy. All of these places, by an incredible coincidence, are United Fund agencies. The film is meant to showcase all the community services the United Fund provides and how it helps people who have nowhere else to turn. But in its realism, it comes off as incredibly sad and depressing. Mr. Barker, in particular, seems like a very depressed old man who feels he has little to live for. He has a heartbreakingly sad expression on his face in all scenes, and after awhile it makes you want to cry. And the agencies all seem bleak and impersonal: he waits in an incredibly crowded waiting room to get his radiation treatment and once he gets it, it seems painful; the Golden Age Club is lively, but the narrator tells us it meets only once a week; and he must watch his friend at the rehabilitation center get a hydrotherapy treatment on an incredibly scary-looking apparatus. This is all quite realistically portrayed, which increases empathy in the viewer, yet this very realism seems to work against the purpose of the film, which was to showcase the good works of the United Fund agencies, which look none too helpful or compassionate in the film. Still, the film is quite successful in generating empathy for Mr. Barker, though one wonders if antidepressant medications might help him.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.

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