Away From Her – ***

Posted: November 18, 2010 in Canada, Drama, USA, XXX

seen on iTunes

Just watched Away From Her, a (first long feature) movie by the Canadian actress Sarah Polley, who’s starred in great movies like Go, The Sweet Hereafter and My Life WIthout Me. The movie deals about love and Alzheimer. And even though you do get to learn a lot about the disease, the main focus lays in the love part. This is not just another disease movie. It’s a movie about loving and letting go.

Julie Christie was nominated a lot of her role as the Alzheimer patient, but personally I think her performance isn’t al that exceptional. Gordon Pinsent, however, who plays the tormented husband is brilliant. Maybe it’s because I’m a man and maybe it’s because as a viewer you can only relate to the healthy character, but I could totally relate to his feelings of love,  misunderstanding, frustration, guilt and doubt. Olympia Dukakis is also impressive, even though she only appears a few minutes in the movie.

The story is simple. A woman realises that she has Alzheimer and decides to go live in an assisted environment. Her husband does not like the idea that much, but agrees for her to be admitted. The intitute has a policy of not letting the patient have any visitors in the first month of their stay. That may sound silly and it probably is, but apparently is ‘good’ for the patients to adapt to their new environment. This however entails as well that once the husband is allowed to visit his wife, she has no recollection of who he is AND she is feeling very comfortable spending time with a male Alzheimer patient that she’s been taking care of.

BAM! What an ingenious dramatic plot point!

This is of course a drama, but I watched it as a thriller. At one point the husband starts to doubt if she isn’t pulling his leg and it’s all some kind of vengeful act for his cheating in the past. Even though you know that’s not the issue, you can totally understand why he would feel that way. Alzheimer is a terrible disease. Just imagine that you’re together with someone for more than 45 years and then all of a sudden he/she does not remember anymore who you are. Aaargh!

It’s not all perfect though. The principal and the nurse of the intitute are not really interpreted convincingly and there’s too many scenes where they just want to show symptoms of the disease (putting a pan in the fridge, having trouble finding the name of certain simple things, etc…). They also didn’t invest in a good soundtrack and there’s too many boring readings out of books. But in the end, it’s a remarkable movie with, as mentioned before, great acting and some tension. There’s not much humor in the movie (apart from a few effective scenes like some patient who used to give commentary to sports events and still does that about what he sees in the institute). There are also several good quotes in the movie, like when Olympia Dukakis’ character needs some attention and says: “It would be easier for me, if you could pretend a little”. But that will all make sense when you watch the movie.

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