Still Alice (Richard Glatzer & Wash Westmoreland, 2014)
If you’re one of those people who doesn’t like to watch depressing films, I recommend that you RUN AS FAR AS YOU CAN away from Still Alice. But, if like me, you like to see films that yank at your heartstrings and possibly even leave you crying in the toilets afterwards, it is well worth a look.Based on Lisa Genova’s novel of the same name, Still Alice documents the cognitive decline of Alice (Julianne Moore), a fifty year old linguistics professor diagnosed with Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Her initial symptoms of forgetting simple words and getting lost become increasingly frequent, and her disease rapidly progresses to devastating degrees. Alice’s husband John (Alec Baldwin) struggles to keep it together, while her three children, Anna (Kate Bosworth), Tom (Hunter Parrish) and Lydia (Kristen Stewart) cope in different ways.
I spent almost the entire film with a lump in my throat, and it only got harder. I left believing that there couldn’t possibly be a crueller disease, as memory is intrinsically tied up in almost everything. Alice’s relatively young age was all the more crushing, as her suffering had no clear end in sight. The effect on her family was heart-breaking, especially considering the genetic link of Alice’s rare form of the disease. Viewers with personal experience of Alzheimer’s (including family members and carers) will find this an incredibly challenging film to watch. Having no personal connection with any form of Dementia myself, I was still gutted by even the thought of watching someone I love succumb to the disease.
Directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland provide an insightful look into the experience of an Alzheimer’s sufferer. While her family’s grief is evident, Still Alice focuses primarily on the individual experience. This sets it apart from previous films that have tackled the subject matter which often focus on the carer – Away From Her, The Savages, Iris, and The Notebook to name a few. Glatzer, a sufferer of ALS who can no longer speak, co-directed the film using an iPad app that transformed his text into speech. His own personal experience with a debilitating disease (though utterly different) no doubt informed his script and direction.
Julianne Moore who has won every award under the sun for her performance here is devastating as Alice. This woman is freakin’ amazing. She’s been kicking arse for years, but has really grabbed everyone’s attention with recent performances in What Maisie Knew, Maps to the Stars, The Kids Are All Right, and Game Change (her Sarah Palin impersonation even beats Tina Fey’s). She’s going to finally get her Oscar and she deserves it for this magnificent performance. Alice’s speech at an Alzheimer’s conference moved me to tears, and I don’t mean my usual teariness, but full-blown streaming down my cheeks so that I have to rearrange my hair so no one can see kind of tears. Alec Baldwin almost did the same to me – he is so much more than just a comedic actor. Kristen Stewart continues to look like she’s super bored with life, but she manages to be mesmerising all the same.
Still Alice is a strong piece of filmmaking which will hopefully bring added awareness to a cruel, cruel disease. But I can’t blame you if you choose to skip it. It’s possibly the most depressing film I’ve ever seen. But if you feel like a good cry, Still Alice is it.
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