Away From Her
Sarah Polley makes her debut as a screenwriter and director in this sad film about the loss of a loved one to Alzheimer’s.
We quickly find out that Fiona (Julie Christie) is dealing with the effects of Alzheimer’s. Conscious of her affliction, she is still in a “good” place and we see her slowly dwindle as her condition worsens. Soon she makes the decision to move into a care facility for Alzheimer’s patients much to the sadness of her husband Grant (Gordon Pinsent). Grant visits the home to find out that he will not be able to see his wife for the first 30 days as she gets settled which leads him to try and talk them out of it with Fiona. She persists though and after an intimate goodbye he begins his thirty days away from her.
The film uses an interesting style in that in cuts forward in time for very brief scenes between Grant and a woman that he seeks out in the opening film. They discuss Fiona and the mystery woman’s husband Aubrey at the home, among other things, and the inter-cutting lasts for about two-thirds of the film. While it leaves you puzzled as to why we are seeing these scenes rest assured it will make more sense as the film goes and is a very good editing trick for the purpose it serves.
I will let you experience the rest of this emotional film on your own and will instead turn to the performances. Julie Christie has been heralded for her role her, and the front runner for the best lead actress, but that is a bit deceiving for someone coming into this film as she is clearly not the lead by any means. She is very good though and sad and makes us feel sorry for her, but I definitely do not think she is the best performance of the year. But don’t let me take away from her, she does a great job, I just don’t think she is the best this year.
Gordon Pinsent is the lead and emotional core of this film and he is just heartbreaking. Playing the part very quiet and reserved, he doesn’t blow things out of proportion and yell at how evil the world is which is a breath of fresh air I think, because he could have easily waded into some hammy territory with this role. Some people might be shocked by some developments with his character but I think that they are valid and only natural with the position he was put in.
The movie is sweet, heartbreaking, and an excellent character study of the effects Alzheimer’s can have on a marriage. If you have a history with the disease it might be tough to watch and be warned that even though there are some bits of humor, the tone is fairly sad and serious most of the time. A good film that is solid all around but doesn’t really have re-watchability and does nothing terribly new, it just does things well.