Each time my children pass through certain milestones — their first steps, their first time riding a bike, their first day of school — I’m reminded of their burgeoning independence and eventual flight from the coop. Before I know it, they’ll be off to college or finding their first apartment.
These are the markers of growth and adulthood that elude the main subjects of "The Grown-Ups," Chilean filmmaker Maite Alberdi’s third feature documentary airing on PBS’ POV series on Labor Day. Following a school for middle-aged adults with Down syndrome, the film is a poignant look at conscious adults and the barriers that older people with disabilities often face when trying to live their fullest lives. And as with her past films,"The Grown-Ups" is crafted with creativity and humor.
The film follows several characters, including Anita, a restless dreamer who imagines life outside the school, and her boyfriend, Andrés, sweetly devoted and sensitive to his girlfriend’s needs. Their love will touch any viewer, but the obstacles they face are sober reminders of the limitations imposed on adults with developmental disabilities. When Andrés wants to propose to Anita, for example, they are told that their union would never be recognized in Chile. Or when Anita enters menopause and considers adoption, she finds this would be strictly restricted under state law.
Through these difficult scenes, Alberdi treats each film subject with sensitivity and humanity. The adults she focuses on are remarkable on their own, each with his or her own hopes and desires for the future. From their happiest moments to their most tragic,"The Grown-Ups" shows us the depth and richness of these characters’ lives.