Even though the elderly characters in Wrinkles are slowly deteriorating in mind and body, their imaginations couldn’t be any livelier. As Emilio (Martin Sheen) enters an assisted-living facility, the first signs of dementia have already begun to show, but director Ignacio Ferreras doesn’t portray this debilitation from an outsider’s perspective: Instead of depicting life coming full circle by having the characters simply revert to a dismal state of childlike helplessness, he interprets the minds of the facility’s residents as vivid landscapes of memories and fantasies uninhibited from reality. This gives the film an atmosphere of limitless malleability and a youthful joviality, which is evoked by the minimalist hand-drawn animation that suggests a children’s storybook.
Ferreras insists on dwelling further, humorously but never mockingly, into the psyche of his characters to outline their general acceptance of their current mental or physical states. All are fully aware that death looms their heads, but any inkling of fear within them is staved off by the camaraderie of the facility’s fellow residents, who share many stories of their long lives (usually presented as extended flashback sequences). It’s only Emilio’s roommate, Miguel (George Coe), more or less the sharpest patient in the facility, who takes an apathetic approach to companionship and exploits the residents’ declining mindsets by suckering cash from them. Though Miguel exudes an infectious swagger and cheerful sense of humor, Ferreras posits him as the film’s ostensible villain, in the sense that it’s his deceptive air of tenacity (and not his frailty) that blinds him from reality; to this extent, Miguel puts himself on a pedestal in which he seems to refuse any association with people his own age, befitting the generally lonely lifestyle he frequently gloats about. Ferreras never invites audience loathing toward Miguel since it’s revealed, in humane fashion, that he’s more afraid of death than anyone else in the facility.
In a wholly undeveloped and meandering subplot, Ferreras clumsily attempts to address a generational gulf between the older patients and the young staff of the facility; instead of thematically expanding on the film, this narrative strand is only a means to provide derivative and trite gags where one generation fails to understand the other. But in its visionary dream and flashback sequences, which contain bright and diverse color palettes that counter the blandness of the facility in which the characters reside, Wrinkles resonates as a comment on the rapidly diminished state of traditional animation. A spirited reminder of the medium’s overall endurance is evoked by an optimistic quote Miguel says to Emilio about making the most of the time they have left: “We may be old, but we’re not dead yet.”