Thursday 22 August 2019

Sensitivity shown in tale of Alzheimer's sorrow

Julianne Moore is spellbinding as Alice Howland in Still Alice.
Julianne Moore is spellbinding as Alice Howland in Still Alice.

Film of the Week


Memories are twinkling stars in a celestial map linking our past, present and future.

Some of these glittering orbs dim naturally over time, such as first experiences from childhood, while others are temporarily obscured by the fog of modern life, like when we forget a friend's birthday, what we dreamt last night, to water the plants or the last place we saw a set of keys.

Alzheimer's is an incurable neurodegenerative disease that slowly robs a patient of the ability to see these stars and chart a safe passage back to the people they love.

Names and faces of friends and family fade to black.

For those left behind, staring into the unblinking eyes of a close relative who no longer recognises you, is an anguish that defies words.

Julianne Moore delivers an Oscar-winning performance as a forty-something mother faced with an early diagnosis of this cruel disease in Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland's heartfelt drama.

Based on the novel by Lisa Genova, Still Alice simply, yet powerfully, conveys the emotional devastation for the central character and the ripple effect for her family.

Celebrated linguistics professor Alice Howland (Moore) leads a charmed life.

She has a husband John (Alex Baldwin) and three grown-up children, Anna (Kate Bosworth), Tom (Hunter Parrish) and Lydia (Kristen Stewart), who are forging divergent paths through life.

During a lecture that she has rigorously prepared, Alice inexplicably loses her train of thought.

'I knew I shouldn't have had that champagne,' she jokes to appreciative giggles from her audience.

Alice begins to forget simple vocabulary and seeks guidance from family medic, Dr Benjamin (Stephen Kunken).

He rules out tumours or a stroke but suspects that Alice is exhibiting the early symptoms of Alzheimer's.

'It would be rare for someone as young as yourself, but you do fit the criteria,' he tells her soberly.

Tests confirm the doctor's fears and since the condition can be passed down, Alice calls together her brood.

She advises her children to be tested, which poses a dilemma for Anna and her husband Charlie (Shane McRae), who are expecting twins.

Anchored by Moore's spellbinding work, Still Alice is a modern family portrait that will strike an unsettling chord.

Baldwin tugs our heartstrings and Stewart offers strident support as the youngest member of the clan, who moves back home to reconnect with her mother while there is still time.

'I wish I had cancer,' Alice tells John. 'I wouldn't feel so ashamed. When people have cancer they wear pink ribbons for you and go on long walks and raise money.'

Still Alice feels no shame or cloying self-pity.

Writer-directors Glatzer and Westmoreland treat characters with sensitivity, touching lightly on the frustrations and blind terror that will become more frequent for Alice and her inner circle as the disease progresses.

RATING: 7/10

Wexford People

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