I’m watching 365 documentaries and writing about each one in 2014. Tweet your suggestions to @documentarysite, or send an e-mail to hmcintosh@documentarysite.com. Read more.

Note: This post may contain spoilers.

A Place Called Pluto is a documentary short by Steve James about the impacts of Alzheimer’s disease on an early-onset sufferer and his family.

Greg O’Brien is a journalist living on Cape Cod who is writing a book about his experiences with the disease. His mornings start like the lead of a good news story, with a recounting of the who, what, where, why, and how of life. But unlike the conciseness of a well-honed lead, O’Brien’s answers to those questions begin with the confusion of waking up in the morning.

“I don’t want to lose the memories of my life,” O’Brien says, but they already are starting to slip away. He has trouble remembering people. He has trouble remembering toothpaste and mouthwash, and has labels on each one to remind him of their uses. He knows the outcome of the disease, as his mother and grandfather had it before him.

His wife and three children are scared of what is happening. His wife struggles with the financial questions. His oldest son struggles with becoming his father’s guardian so soon. They are in the process of losing him, though when he is lost to Alzheimer’s, he will still be there.

The interplay of blur and focus in P.D. O’Brien’s cinematography makes memory a visual metaphor through blurry and in-focus shots of family photographs and through gentle dissolves between them. Joshua Abrams’s subtle score adds the right notes of both melancholy and joy at just the right times.

While normally I prefer documentaries to run shorter, I wish this one had been longer.

A Place Called Pluto had its U.S. premiere at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival earlier this month.

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Heather McIntosh
Heather McIntosh started Documentary Site as a resource for documentary media and has greatly enjoyed the connections it has fostered over the years.