The Mole Agent takes use inside a nursing home in Chile. The home is under scrutiny because there are fears the residents are being mistreated. But over the course of the film, we learn differently. We learn something more mundane, yet still concerning about the residents of the nursing home. And it takes an 83-year-old spying widower to get us there.
The film opens inside the office of a private detective named Romulo Aitken. He is recruiting what he dubs a 'mole agent', who will live at the nursing home in the hope of gathering incriminating evidence. This is brought about by the daughter of one of the home's residents who believes her mother is being abused. Several elderly gentlemen reply to the ad Romulo has placed in the newspaper.
Most of the candidates stumble amusingly when Romulo tests their tech skills. The man who gets the job even has difficulties, believing he is using FaceTime when he is pointing his camera at Romulo. Sergio Chamy is softly spoken and recently widowed. He is healthy and relatively happy but hasn't much to do all day and welcomes the chance to be useful. With the blessing of his daughter, Sergio takes the job and is placed inside the nursing home.
Sergio is considerate and affable and the home's mostly female residents take to him immediately. He gets the lay of the land and begins sending his highly detailed, minutiae-filled reports back to Romulo, who soon gets frustrated and reminds Sergio of the task he's been hired for. But Sergio can't do it any other way; he's got the time and inclination to dig deeper, and in the process conveys the frustrations of the residents.
Directed by Maite Alberdi, there's much to like about The Mole Agent. There are pleasantly funny sections and candid, surprising moments. Where the film stumbles is in its construction. The lack of background information given to the audience results in obvious questions. Are we actually watching a purely observational documentary? Or something else entirely? It's never made clear and it's off-putting and hard to overcome. The film's middle is also a little flabby - there is only so much wandering around the home we need to see Sergio do.
Though it's hard to find fault with Sergio himself. He is, as a female admirer repeatedly reminds everyone, a gentlemen. And his sincerity and enthusiasm bind the film together. The Mole Agent doesn't end up where you think, but still reveals truths about the way we treat our elderly.