Away From Her
Now Showing at: Mariemont Theatre.
Review by: Larry Thomas
Did you ever read about the subject matter of a film and automatically decide,
"Oh, I don't want to see that." Generally, your instincts are
probably right on the money. However, occasionally it might be a good idea to
The film is Away From Her and it's about a vibrant older woman dealing
with the onset of Alzheimer's, and how she, and her husband, are going
to deal with it.
Based on the short story "The Bear Came Over the Mountain" by Alice
Munro, Away From Her is a glowing, heartfelt film as written and directed
by Canadian actress Sarah Polley. This brilliant young filmmaker has had roles
in many films, most notably Atom Egoyan's The Sweet Hereafter,
which won her several supporting actress awards. As she matured, writing and
directing became the next logical step in her career, and she really shines
with this production.
Julie Christie plays Fiona; married for 44 years to Grant, a college professor
who's been retired for some time. Although Fiona is only in her mid-60s,
the two of them recognize the onset of this dreaded condition. After much soul-searching,
Fiona knows she needs to enter a private care facility, and does so, where Grant
visits her every day.
You may think this is the end of their lives, but it's actually only
the beginning. Once in the care facility, a multitude of life-changing events
take place for both Grant and Fiona, as well as affecting those around them.
The performances are impeccable. Though Julie Christie's face is lined,
it is never sad. You can still look at that face and know it's the face
of someone who's enjoyed life to the fullest, and doesn't plan to
stop because of a disease. Her performance is so good that it's unthinkable
that she not be a front-runner for next year's Oscar.
Canadian actor Gordon Pinsent, not well known in this country, is perfect.
He manages to convey a man who keeps many of his feelings hidden away, partly
to submerge some of the troubles the marriage has gone through over the years,
but yet still feels deeply. Both in his love for his wife, and in the guilt
over events caused by his faults as a man.
Fine support comes from Oscar-winner Olympia Dukakis, and one-time Woody Allen
crony Michael Murphy, whose small role with no dialogue, is genuinely heartbreaking.
The dialogue in Polley's screenplay is sharp and witty. It reveals much
about the characters without resorting to obvious explanations. Jonathan Goldsmith's
score is perfect in its blending of original themes with excerpts from Bach.
Alzheimer's is a fact for many people, although not something most of us want
to face. Away From Her is a good first-step in exploring the effects
of this disease on a loved one. A most appropriate coda is kd lang singing Neil
Young's beautiful song "Helpless" over the closing credits. It's literally saying…
helpless, perhaps, but not hopeless.
Away From Her is one of the most humane films to be released in years.
It's now playing at the Mariemont Theatre.