Away From Her is the latest offering from Canadian director/actress Sarah Polley. I saw this movie in the wake of reading an article on alzheimers in Newsweek, which was accompanied by some incredible photos by Dallas based photographer Misty Keasler. Both the article and the film do an amazing job of capturing the emotional experience that alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers go through.
The film opens with Fiona (Julie Christie) and Grant (Gordon Pinsent) who could be any couple enjoying their twilight years, but that notion is quickly replaced when Fiona casually puts away a frying pan in the freezer while they do the afterdinner dishes together. After a few more incidents, Fiona decides it would be best if she were to go into a retirement home. The rest of the film, in a painfully beautiful way, deals with the complex emotions both Fiona and Grant have as her memory of their 45 year marriage slowly fades before his eyes. Olympia Dukakis (Marian) turns in a stellar supporting performance as a woman Grant turns to who is also dealing with the slow erasure of her husband Aubrey (Michael Murphy), whom Fiona forms an attachment to. As her state progresses she focuses her affection on this stranger rather than her husband, most of which he is there to witness.
This is by far one of the best fims that I have seen all year, and I highly recommend it. I left the theater with a more profound understanding of what grace and dignity are.