The Mole Agent, 2020
Cast: Sergio Chamy
Director: Maite Alberdi
Synopsis: A private investigator in Chile hires someone to work as a mole at a retirement home where a client of his suspects the caretakers of elder abuse.

Investigator Rómulo Aitken has a new recruit: an 83-year-old widower named Sergio who can barely use a cellphone. But even if the old man seems eager to learn and more than ready to take part in the action, can this grandfather of five really handle his assignment?
You bet he can! Newbie or not, Sergio proves to be reliable and sharp-minded. This new mission helps him keep his mind away from his grief and gives him a reason to live for. Discovering he can still contribute to the world, our mole will do anything for his assignment to be a success. “I’m beginning to feel like the person I used to be”, he even says. It’s rather ironic when we know he’s playing someone he isn’t.

The Mole Agent is supposed to be a documentary, yet we can’t seem to figure out how much of it is unscripted. And it’s not until some spy gadgets make Alberdi’s crew visible behind Rómulo that the documentary’s conceit makes itself known. Going from scenes showing Sergio’s daughter to ones with recording glasses à la James Bond, The Mole Agent slyly draws parallels between Sergio’s real-life adventure and thriller clichés through the whole feature film.

But what this old man lives is real. And, as friendly as it seems, the nursing home is a prison from where you can’t escape. Once Sergio enters, he cedes his autonomy to the staff. Within the retirement home, our agent starts his investigation and quickly, he doesn’t know who to believe anymore. Not that the residents are lying, they’re just slowly slipping into senility. That’s where the spy documentary starts to show its true form.

Sergio doesn’t have to uncover all the clues to realize that the real culprit is a lack of empathy for abandoned old souls. The residents don’t need James Bond. They need a friend. They just want to be seen, though probably not by secret cameras. And Sergio may not have agent 007’s swagger, but he’s kind, chatty and a good listener, and sometimes that’s all we need.

Alison Pégand

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