Written and directed by Maite Alberdi, The Mole Agent is a Chilean documentary film where an eighty-three-year-old man goes undercover at a retirement home to investigate the residents well-being.
The film opens with a group of elderly men responding to an ad in the newspaper looking for men aged between eighty and ninety. We are then introduced to Sergio Chamy, who is hired to go undercover at a retirement home to investigate suspected abuse at the request of a private detective agency. Unfortunately, Sergio isn’t a great spy. He asks direct questions to the carers without being subtle, he damages expensive spy equipment, and he answers calls from the detective agency in front of the other residents.
I have to admit that I went into this film expecting a James Bond parody or a bumbling spy comedy such as The Pink Panther. During the first ten minutes of the film I thought that my prediction was going to be correct as we see Sergio struggling to complete simple tasks on his mobile phone such as making a video call or using WhatsApp. But as the film progresses, it starts to become a very sad film as it shows the reality of becoming old.
The majority of the elderly people are sad because their families don’t come to visit them, or they are mentally or physically ill to the point that they are confused about their surroundings. The film can become a little uncomfortable to watch at times, as it is so heartbreaking to see the residents in pain, but it is also heartwarming as Sergio tries to bring some joy into their lives. There is one moment in particular where Sergio uses his contacts at the detective agency to send pictures of one of the residents’ family members, so she could show them to Sergio and tell stories about them as well.
Sergio is a delight to watch as well. He is a recent widower having only lost his wife just four months prior to going undercover and is looking for a distraction. But when he enters the retirement home, he instantly becomes popular, especially with the female residents. This is because Sergio is a good listener, a great communicator and he genuinely cares about the other residents. In fact, Sergio is so well liked that one of the residents falls in love with him. While The Mole Agent has a lot of heart, there can be some tedious moments where Sergio is walking around the retirement home or talking to the other residents which at times can lead to nothing, making the film that is under ninety minutes seem a lot longer than it actually is. Finally, there are some clever uses of music as the film includes some surf rock music that wouldn’t be typically used in a regular spy film. The film also contains some slow melancholic jazz music during the films more sadder moments.
The Mole Agent starts off as an easy-going film but transforms into a story about the pain and confusion that transpires as people grow old. It is also a heartwarming reminder to love and appreciate the elderly people that you have in your life.
The Mole Agent screened at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival as part of the World Cinema Documentary Competition and will open in Australian Cinemas from the 17th of June, 2021.