Ice Cream in the Cupboard is based on the biographical book of the same name written by Pat Moffett, whose wife, Carmen, was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. It follows Pat (played by Dana Ashbrook of Twin Peaks fame) as he navigates the changing realities of his family life, caring for his wife and doing his best to keep it together. Carmen (Claudia Ferri) is prone to confusion and violent outbursts. As a way of living and trying to stay connected to her, Pat often contemplates their lives together.
It’s a touching if somewhat formulaic look at the situation. The performances are excellent, particularly Ashbrook, who has the difficulty of portraying a man who wants to lash out at the world but know it won’t do him or his wife any good. Director Drew Pollins rightfully focuses on the characters and allows time to feel almost fluid as the story progresses and Carmen’s condition worsens. Pat’s reminiscences are tinged with wanderlust for what they lost. It’s an unimaginable situation, even as he’s living it.
Thankfully this isn’t a story that takes lightly the emotional toll of the disease on the person diagnosed with it or those close to them. It hews close to the lived experience of the original story and does not fall into tropes seen in larger pictures. Pat feels like a real person, and his heartbreak as the situation moves further and further out of his control is achingly felt. This is not an easy movie to watch, but it is, at least, thoughtfully made and acted.