On October 29, I received an email from Victoria Negri. She’s the writer, producer, director and star of a new feature film, “Gold Star,” which premiered here in New York City in early November. I was asked to be part of a panel discussion after the screening and was more than happy to comply.
The film is autobiographical—and Victoria gives us an intimate and realistic portrayal of the experiences of a millennial caregiver; trapped between her own life and caring for her elderly, post-stroke father, confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak, who prior to the stroke had been suffering with Parkinson’s disease.
This was neither an easy film to watch or to make. How does one make a compelling film about a character totally adrift in her life—a talented music school dropout in a bad love relationship, looking for answers to questions she doesn’t know to ask and dropped into a caregiving situation no one would ever ask for?hgj b
The one cohesive element in her life is caregiving for her father, who was sixty-three years old when she was born. I considered what it must have been like growing up knowing that when you entered your twenties your dad would be in his eighties—the likelihood of his needing care had to loom heavy.
Yes, she had a boyfriend in the city when she travelled home to Connecticut, and we sense right off the bat that this was not meant to last. But I’m not going to give you a blow-by-blow description of the film. No spoilers here.
Suffice it to say she’s resentful of her situation and frustrated with her inability to communicate with her father, played beautifully by Oscar nominee Robert Vaughn (“The Man from UNCLE” and “The Magnificent Seven).
Because this film is autobiographical, we are privy to many insights throughout her struggle. We “get” how exasperated and discouraged she feels, and share in the uplifting moments of joy and the sense of fulfillment caregiving can bring.
Throughout “Gold Star,” Victoria is seen staring off into space, lying in bed totally lost or running on the shore towards something yet undefined—her true self—which seems to come out through a new, deeper connection with her dad. There’s one scene where Vicki plays the piano for her father who was a classical musician himself. The scene is short and poignant. I found their connection through music to be intensely moving.
“Gold Star” was shown in a small art film house in Greenwich Village, and though it wasn’t a standing room crowd, it was attended by people who understood the caregiving experience. The panel after the screening was small—Victoria Negri, the film’s star, writer, producer and director; Catherine Curtin, who plays her mother in the film beautifully; caregiving blogger Michelle Seitzer and myself. The questions that were asked were very telling, including several from a patient. I asked Victoria about what she did for emotional support to which she replied she had a sister who was always there for her. Because the story of a young caregiver’s frustration and loneliness was better told by omitting the sister, I understood. Her feelings of isolation and hopelessness were best expressed if she was a solitary voice. Victoria wants this film to be seen by as many caregivers (and non-caregivers) as possible. It has already won awards at several film festivals.
“Gold Star” is available to members of Amazon Prime and Victoria is happy to entertain requests for screenings for appropriate audiences. She can be emailed for more details at email@example.com.
Adrienne Gruberg is a former family caregiver and founder of The Caregiver Space. After six years of caring for her late husband and mother-in-law she conceived of an online support space all caregivers could come to. Adrienne holds a BFA from Boston University. She founded AYA Creative in 1982, an award winning graphic design, marketing and advertising company. Her design training has helped shape the website and her personal and professional experience continues to inform and influence the caregiver centric support experience she has created at The Caregiver Space.