Even in a movie about the pain of Alzheimer’s you manage to look smoking hot Nina Dobrev, just keep doing what you be doing!
Written By: Sarah Polley
Directed By: Sarah Polley
There’s good reason why we haven’t seen many films about Alzheimer’s, it is a hard disease to capture and its even harder to put forth a testimony on Alzheimer’s that doesn’t degenerate into nonstop sappy sentimentality. For a woman taking on her first feature film Sarah Polley certainly didn’t aim low and the results show a woman who I hope to see direct many more features in the future. I guess at this time I should declare my fandom of Ms. Polley, there hasn’t been a role I haven’t liked her in yet and now that has transferred to her time behind the camera. The combination of the subject matter of Away From Her and my fandom of Polley made me approach this film with a lot of trepidation. It’s never pleasant to see someone you like fail after all.
Enough of my Polley fandom, back to Away From Her and why it is a fantastic directorial debut from the former child star. The story in Away From Her isn’t about Alzheimer’s and that is how it avoids the aforementioned sappy sentimentality. The focus in Away From Her is on Grant and the decisions he must make in his arduous path of letting go of the woman he once knew. It is painful to watch him struggle with the loss of his wife because she isn’t really lost. Polley frames the movie so that we feel Fiona’s presence, we know that she is still around at all times, but she isn’t Grant’s Fiona anymore. The true pain and emotion comes through watching Grant deal with his loss, because while we feel sympathy for Fiona she isn’t struggling through the process like Grant.
None of what I have just written would be possible without the performances by Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent. As I have said in the past I am not the best at breaking down acting and putting into words why certain performances work for me or don’t work for me. I can tell you that I was captivated by the performances of both Christie and Pinsent, and that without them I doubt that Away From Her would have anywhere near the level of resonance.
I did struggle with Away From Her at times and that was mainly due to Polley’s odd choice of a fractured narrative. At first I was okay with this approach, thinking that it was meant to mirror Fiona’s fractured existence. As it became clear that the movie was about Grant and not Fiona, the fractured style became more distracting than anything else. If there’s one thing Away From Her is missing it is consistent forward momentum, it’s very good at contemplating but it could have used a better approach in reaching its contemplative state.
As far as first time efforts go you could do much worse than Away From Her, this is an effort that Sarah Polley should be proud of. The delivery is off in places, but this is an emotionally honest look at a tough subject that avoids melodrama and sentimentality. Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent top off a nicely constructed cast, while Polley shows a sure directorial hand for the most part. It’s not a pleasant experience, but Away From Her is honest in its presentation of Alzheimer’s and the human emotion that accompanies the disease. Sarah Polley does well in her feature film debut, hopefully she can follow it up with similar efforts.