The Mole Agent is such a surprise of a film for what starts as an investigation and turns into so much more.
The Mole Agent (2020) Review By Mark McPherson
Published on April 30, 2021
Rating 4 /5
The very premise for The Mole Agent may make it sound less like a documentary and more of a quirky comedy. Taking place in Chile, Rómulo is a private investigator who has been tasked with finding out if there’s abuse and theft within a nursing home. Not being old enough to go undercover, he instead recruits a man in his 80s for the job. After going through a slew of candidates, hoping to find one that is both aware of the job and able to use technology, he enlists Sergio, a rather charming old guy who does seem to have a certain secret agent charm to him. He’s not perfect and will still need some instructions as he goes along but Sergio may be the only one who can pull off such a job.
Sergio’s insertion into the nursing home proceeds predictably given that he is rather old. He conspires a story with Rómulo and his family to make his placement there believable even if it doesn’t seem as needed. Sergio may not understand all the ins and outs of being an undercover agent but he does seem relatively committed to his mission. He still takes notice of all the potential suspects and keeps an eye on all their rooms. He documents his findings and reports back regularly to Rómulo, either through logs or phone calls.
Though Sergio is committed, he’s not exactly an expert in being discreet. He writes down room numbers in plain sight and is witnessed a few times by other residents. He isn’t found out but this aspect does frustrate Rómulo. The private investigator grows weary of Sergio’s forgetfulness in sending reports and his methods of inquiry that are too direct. While investigating one woman, he mentions that he asked the nurse about a medicine schedule for a suspect. Rómulo instructs that he needs to word his questioning differently or his cover could be blown.
While staying at the home, Sergio attracts the attention of many women who find him handsome and charming. We get to know many of them and the stories that follow them into such a place. One woman loves him in a romantic way, hoping they can have a wedding. Another believes he may be her best shot at taking a stroll outside. Nearly everyone else seems to just like him with a few rare exceptions.
As the most stable and able of the residents, Sergio has a certain quiet humanity to him that makes him more than just a spy. His many interactions with the women he comes into contact with feel genuine and emotional. One of the most powerful moments features Sergio sitting with a woman who has grown anxious and forgetful, unsure of where she is and what she will do. Sergio, ever the calm man, sticks by her and tries to help him out. He notices that she’s holding back tears and tells her it’s okay to cry. Not even okay; it’s healthy and will make you all the better. He stays beside her while she lets the waterworks flow.
The Mole Agent is such a surprise of a film for what starts as an investigation and turns into so much more. Sergio shuffles about the home, making observations for a case but also observations on life. He peers with a closer eye yet an open heart about what it means to grow older. We also witness many private moments of love and emotional connection, where some residents hang out by the door waiting to be let out of the facility and others wait anxiously for a phone call. There’s a somberness to such a film but also an all-loving sensation of getting to know the elders who may be forgotten. The Mole Agent gets up close and personal enough to appreciate the people in their twilight years.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.