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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Directed by Peter Yates
Buena Vista Home Entertainment 03/95 DVD/VHS Feature Film
In Roommates, Rocky, a seventy-five year old Polish baker in Pittsburgh, takes in his grandson Michael when the boy's widowed mother dies. The five-year-old boy looks askance at the old man during the funeral service and wonders why he is whistling. Later, Rocky explains that you must always whistle when your heart is broken.
As Michael grows up he becomes very familiar with Rocky's idiosyncrasies his obsession with work, his enjoyment of cards and bowling, his favorite Polish phrases and jokes, and his central belief that family looks after family. Listening to his grandfather's snoring and dream chatter becomes such a comfort to the boy that when he finally leaves home it is hard for him to sleep at night with all the silence.
Michael goes to medical school in Columbus, Ohio. When Rocky has to vacate his home of 50 years, Michael insists that he move in with him. The rest of the house is rented by a friendly group of Chinese students, affectionately called "the communists" by Rocky.
When Michael falls in love and marries Beth, a social worker, Rocky feels shut out and decides to stay in Ohio, where he is the oldest employed person in the city. But eventually he rejoins the family after Michael moves back to Pittsburgh to do his residency in cardiology. Rocky, who now sees himself as obsolete because he can no longer get a job, learns to enjoy his great-grandchildren. And after a family tragedy, he passes on his final bit of wisdom as a spiritual elder.
Roommates is buoyed by a funny, colorful, and touching performance by Peter Falk as the inimitable Rocky who lives to be 107 years old. The screenplay, based on a story by Max Apple and directed by Peter Yates, celebrates the vital connection between grandparents and grandchildren. Over the course of the film, Rocky is a mentor sharing the wisdom accumulated through years of experience; a role model preparing Michael for what it is like to be old and a grandparent; a wizard passing on a sense of delight; and a nurturer helping his grandson see that the love he has to give his children is more important than anything else in life.
Roommates offers a treasure trove of wisdom about grandparenting. Don't miss it!
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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