Oct 18, 2007

Away From Her

Away From Her is comparatively simple but eternally complex. More importantly it is numbingly tender, deeply moving and impeccably acted. This outstanding film represents the directorial debut from the gifted Canadian actress Sarah Polley. She also wrote the screenplay, based on a short story "The Bear Came Over the Mountain" by Alice Munro. Polley has done a remarkable job, eschewing all artifice to create a realistic and touching look at a couple enduring the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Grant (Gordon Pinsent) and Fiona (Julie Christie) have been married for 44 years, but recently she has become forgetful and distant as the disease takes hold of her. He is happy to support her in anyway, but she feels a burden to him. So she takes the step of placing herself in Meadow Lake, a care facility. As each day passes she forgets more and her relationship with her caring husband becomes a distant memory. As this happens she forms another relationship with fellow patient Aubrey (Michael Murphy). An action that her husband somehow rationalises as he realizes that their world together is in inevitable decline. This film is short on plot, but overflowing on character. We witness a story about the bonds the love, the slow erasure of memory, the passing of time. As stated, the acting is superb. Christie is elegant and moving as the brave wife whose life is slipping away from her. Pinsent is great beyond words as the stoic, supportive husband. Whilst Murphy, an Altman regular, is remarkable in a role where he is speechless through out the entire film. Thankfully this film is far from maudlin. It has moments of wry humour and conversations that are so realistic you feel like you have just stumbled into them half way through. A film with a big heart and a clear mind, it is a stark and direct reminder of the power of cinema.

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