Married for almost 50 years, Grant and Fiona's commitment
to each other appears unwavering. Their daily life is filled
with tenderness and humor; yet this serenity is broken by
Fiona's increasingly evident memory loss and her restrained
references to a past betrayal. For a while, the couple is
able to causally dismiss these unwelcome changes. But when
neither Fiona nor her husband can deny any longer that she
is being consumed by Alzheimer's disease, the couple is forced
to wrenchingly redefine the limits of their love and loyalty
and face the complex, inevitable transition from lovers to
Away From Her is a love story. And like love in real
life, it is at times heart-warming, at times heartbreaking.
Drawing inspiration from Alice Munro’s short story “The
Bear Came Over The Mountain”, writer-director Sarah
Polley paints a sensitive and heartfelt picture of a couple
40 years into their marriage whose love will be tested by
Better known as the Canadian actress of “The Sweet Hereafter”
and “My Life Without Me”, the 27-year old Polley
deserves much praise for this gem of a movie. Deftly choosing
to tell the story with simplicity, Polley opens the movie
with Fiona’s realization that she is losing her memory.
“I think I’m beginning to disappear,” Fiona
observes. In these few words, Polley captures so vividly the
helplessness of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s.
But Fiona is not one to wallow in sadness. Instead, she makes
the decision that she and her husband Grant have been deliberating
over, and checks herself into a nearby nursing home.
But Away From Her is not just about the trials of an Alzheimer-suffering
patient; it is also about the ups of downs of the caregiver,
seen through the eyes of Grant. Struggling to help Fiona remember
the love and the memories they have together, Grant faces
an even greater challenge 30 days after their forced separation
when he sees her growing affectionate with another patient,
Aubrey, at the nursing home.
Is this a result of her illness? Or is this her way of getting
back at him for his past transgression? Grant can only guess;
and so do we. As like any spouse, Grant feels jealous. Instead
of bursting out his feelings, director Polley eschews the
histrionics to lend the character Grant dignity. So Grant
watches from a distance, and even though his hurt is palpable,
it is his love for Fiona that gives him the strength to do
an ultimate act of self-sacrifice.
Polley is aided most capably by Julie Christie’s amazing
performance. Indeed, her portrayal of an Alzheimer’s
patient is real and sincere, and certainly deserving of the
best actress Academy Award nomination she received earlier
this year. Gordon Pinsent also deserves much praise as the
steadfast husband Grant. Most prominently, Pinsent conveys
Grant’s sense of despair so palpably when the camera
trains its eyes on Grant as he watches Fiona’s affection
Yet Away From Her’s greatest revelation is truly its
writer-director Polley. Alzheimer’s is no easy material
to show on screen, but Polley has used it as subject for a
story that captures much about the frailties of old age, as
it does of the beauty of love. Every character in Away From
Her is nicely fleshed out, from Fiona to Grant to Aubrey and
his wife to the nurses exposed to the day to day afflictions
of their patients. This coming from a director as young as
Polley is indeed remarkable and I’m eagerly looking
forward to what she will do next.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
None. This is a bare bones DVD release with only
is presented in anamorphic widescreen as its theatrical format.
Visual transfer is good. Subtitles are available in English
by Gabriel Chong