This funny and touching little film about an old lady struggling to send a text message has been charming the pants off film festival audiences from Tokyo to Nantucket – where it won Best Short Film. It will have you both laughing and reaching for a tissue.

What patience it must take to work in a nursing home or assisted living facility. I often hear how hard it must be to work with infants and/or kindergarteners, to have to talk down to their level and explain concepts to their developing minds. Working with the elderly must be much, much harder, if only because they already know everything they want to know and anything new, especially with regards to technology, scares them. That is a generalization, of course, but the short film “Dotty” does such a great job of conveying this difficulty; we can’t help but greatly admire the younger of the two characters, who helps Dotty compose a simple text message.


Or, not so simple. Dotty (Joyce Irving) sits in her room with a woman who appears to be her caregiver (Alison Bruce). Dotty wants nothing more than to send a text message to her daughter. If this were an iPhone, perhaps it would be much easier, but this is a flip phone. The text messaging is not so intuitive. First, she must “unlock” the phone. When she is told this, she immediately starts looking for a keyhole on the device. No, to unlock it, she must press the menu button, then the pound button in fast succession. Then, simply go into the menu, select “text message” and begin to type. Sounds easy, but the look on poor Dotty’s face is enough for the viewer to see that this nurse is in for a long day of explaining the nature of “predictive text” and how to type one letter when you really want another letter. Of course, Dotty thinks she is doing everything right and it’s the phone that has the problem.


Directors Mick Andrews and Brett O’Gorman have great empathy for Dotty. They do a wonderful job in conveying her confusion, while also using sun-lit exterior shots to show the passing of time as a man with a walker makes laps around the sidewalk outside her room. This is a delicately made ten-minute short that puts the viewer in the uncomfortable position of laughing while fully understanding how hard this must be for Dotty. The film has an even deeper resonance upon repeated viewings, the performances by Bruce and Irving growing even stronger. By the end of the short, the viewer is both delighted and saddened, while gaining just a little more understanding of what it means to grow old and to not be able to say the things you want to say, in the way you want to say them.


Where did this story come from?

 The story wasn’t actually inspired by a real-life event, it’s just one of those mysterious things that drop into your head. However, the other director, Brett O’Gorman, and I had just finished redrafting the pilot episode of a TV show set in a nursing home called “Sundowning.” So it might have been an overflow from that. Although I had recently seen an old lady struggle with a mobile phone on the bus and was intrigued that something so easy for us can be such a big challenge for someone who didn’t grow up with technology.
Source DOTTY

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