The POV film The Mole Agent, airing at 9:30 pm Monday, Jan. 25, 2021, on WGCU PBS, begins by prompting a succession of smiles. Men answer an advertisement for a job in which the qualifications are simply being a man and between 80 and 90 years old. In interviews with a potential employer, they answer questions about technology; asked about photos, one man demonstrates his ability by unknowingly taking 15 pictures of the same thing.
The employer is a private detective hiring a “mole” to live for three months in a nursing home. While there, the mole will document the care a female resident is receiving. The resident’s daughter has hired the detective to find out if her fears of substandard care are true.
Enter Sergio, a recent widower who gets the job and is charged with monitoring the “target” and making “deliveries” of information periodically.
He’s charming and a dapper dresser who turns more than a few heads of the residents, who are overwhelmingly female. We overhear the ladies talk through English subtitles: “He looks lucid,” one says. “He’s a gentleman,” several say. At mealtime, a woman walks by his table and gives him her dessert, which is something orange in a see-through container.
Sergio sends messages and videos of events throughout the nursing home he believes to be important to Romulo, the detective, who increasingly pushes Sergio to concentrate on the target – a woman named Sonia. Romulo continually reminds Sergio not to blow his cover. The detective is brusque and single-minded, and we cheer when Sergio finally sets him straight.
As events unfurl, we realize that not all of the deception takes place in the nursing home. A forgivable amount is perpetrated on the viewer.
And that’s because what Sergio uncovers is far more about all of us – old and young – than one woman in one home in one area of the world.
Since 1988, POV has presented more than 500 documentary films to public television audiences in the United States. POV films put a human face on contemporary social issues while stressing intimacy, timeliness and exceptional storytelling.