AWAY FROM HER
Grant (Gordon Pinsent) and Fiona (Julie Christie) are comfortable with each other, after 50 years of marriage and a good life. But Fiona's ever-increasing memory loss becomes an issue that neither can ignore, and eventually she enters Meadowlake, a retirement home that specializes in Alzheimers disease. In order for new patients to adjust, no visitors are allowed during the first month, and when Grant visits his wife, she can't remember him, but has turned her affection to Aubrey (Michael Murphy), another resident. Hurt and bewildered, Grant confides in Kristy (Kristen Thomson), a young resident nurse as he begins a friendship with Aubrey's wife Marian (Olympia Dukakis).
Review by Louise Keller:
A heartbreaking and profound film about an impossible love, Away From Her is a portrait of a relationship struggling to endure Alzheimers. Helpless is the song that k.d. lang sings through the closing credits, and helpless is the key emotion transmitted through this emotionally charged film. For the loved one, there are two kinds of reactions - anger and acceptance and we readily understand why one can develop into the other. It's an extraordinary directing debut for actress Sarah Polley, who at 28 explores these mature themes from Alice Munro's short story, The Bear Came Over the Mountain, with tenderness and compassion. Julie Christie envelops herself into the nebulous shoes of Fiona, while Gordon Pinsent as Grant, her husband of 50 years, watches powerless on the sidelines.
Theirs is a story of despair, hope, guilt and love. Everything is still familiar as Grant and Fiona position their skis on clearly defined ski-tracks near their home. 'I think I may be beginning to disappear,' she tells friends, as post-it notes describing the contents of the kitchen drawers reveal what the future holds. It is a tough film to watch, as the couple jointly decide it is time for Fiona to be admitted into a facility ('It is all we can aspire to in this situation').
Quickly Grant learns it is a day by day affair, wondering if she will know him, welcome him or reject him. Is it possible that she could be pretending - to punish him, he wonders aloud to Krysty (Kristen Thomson), the young nurse who lends a sympathetic ear, and quickly recognises the guilt Grant feels for his past infidelities. It is an unexpected and unlikely solace that Grant finds with Olympia Dukakis' emotionally bankrupt wife Marian, whose institutionalised husband Aubrey (Michael Murphy) has become the focus of Fiona's affections. The icy snow and barren trees reflect the tragic state of Grant and Fiona's love story, which no change of season can alter.
This is a beautifully made film filled with subtleties, and whose diary of melancholy seeps uncontrollably through our every emotion. As Oscar Wilde wrote, in The Importance of Being Earnest, memory is the diary that we all carry about with us.
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AWAY FROM HER (M)
CAST: Gordon Pinsent, Julie Christie, Olympia Dukakis, Tom Harvey, Deanna Dezmari, Stacey LaBerge, Clare Coulter, Thomas Hauff
PRODUCER: Daniel Iron. Simone Urdl, Jennifer Weiss
DIRECTOR: Sarah Polley
SCRIPT: Sarah Polley (short story by Alice Munro)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Luc Montpellier
EDITOR: David Wharnsby
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Kathleen Climie
RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Dendy
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 4, 2007