Julie Christie in Away from Her.
Holy fuck this is one depressing movie. I mean seriously, it should come with a free prescription of Prozac and at least one session with the psychiatrist of your own choosing. There should be warnings on the DVD case like those on packs of cigarettes. WARNING: This movie will make you want to kill yourself before you get old and develop Alzheimer's, or (even worse) someone you love develops the same condition and forgets who you are. You should seriously have a comedy DVD on stand-by to throw in if you feel yourself becoming suicidal while watching.
The only reason I even bothered to watch this movie is because Julie Christie is generating Oscar buzz in the lead-actress category for her part in this movie. And yeah, I guess she deserves it. I certainly believed her in this part. Although it's such a cliché way to win an Oscar. You know what I mean. It's the old, if you want an Oscar, play someone with a disability or illness.
In case you too decide to see this movie, let me just some up some of the joy you'll get to experience (Spoiler Alert). Grant and Fiona are an elderly married couple. Fiona is developing Alzheimer's. To avoid being a burden on Grant, she puts herself in a assisted living home specializing in people with this condition. She very quickly forgets who Grant is completely and seems to fall in love (in so much as her condition will allow her to) with another man at the hospital in a similar state. Grant, who still visits her everyday, is forced to watch this develop. When Murphy, the man Fiona has developed a relationship with, is removed from the home, Fiona quickly goes into a downward spiral. Grant decides that the only way to help her improve is to get Murphy back in the home. He therefore begins a relationship with Marian (Dukakis), Murphy's wife, and effectively performs a wife swap with Murphy, all out of love for his wife.
Doesn't that just sound like the feel-good movie of the year?
I don't get who this movie is for. If you have a relative with Alzheimer's you don't need to see a movie about it. If you don't know anybody with it, then why would you be interested in it. And if you have it, well you won't remember you've seen it anyway. (I know, I know, that's in poor taste, but I have to joke to keep from crying.)
Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against a movie that makes me cry. I just have something against a movie that makes me want to slit my wrists in a fit of depression after watching it, like this one does.
Gordon Pinsent and Julie Christie in Away from Her.
I found this movie more sad than depressing. The only problem I had was that they never really went for it. It is a tearjerker without a big climactic moment. I didn't like the way it just sort of winds down at the end. I'm tired of naturalism in movies. Give me drama like Bette Davis' final scene in Dark Victory. I prefer reel life over so-called real life any day. The purpose of art isn't merely to reflect life but also to heighten it. Or so I have always believed.
I think Julie Christie is good here although I agree it is the kind of showy role designed to win Oscars. The only thing missing is that great, impossibly-tragic moment. The filmmakers probably figured that the circumstances of the movie were heartbreaking enough that they could downplay them. And they were successful at making it seem real. But it is too real. It plays like a documentary and as such some of the dialogue gets quite banal at times.
It does have a wonderful romance to it. Grant's sacrifice of bringing Aubrey to visit Fiona is quite touching but again not played up enough for my taste. All in all it's not a bad movie, just not as compelling as I had hoped.
Gordon Pinsent in Away from Her.
Away From Her is not so much a depressing movie, as it is one of sacrifice. It is hard to see Fiona deteriorate, but the point of the movie is Grant's devotion. Early in the movie, he visits the assisted living facility and is put off by what he sees as a horribly sad living situation. He does not want Fiona to live there, but he gives into her wishes. He sees her become close to another man and learns to accept it.
This is not Fiona's story, but Grants. We know where Fiona is headed very early on in the movie. Alzheimers only has one conclusion. Fiona's destiny is determined for her. Grant learning to deal with her condition and changes is the heart of the film.
The problem I had with this movie is that it does not create enough sympathy for them. I never felt that I knew either character. They seem more like neighbors you gossip about, than characters that I could feel much sympathy for. The only thing we know of them is that they never had children. They live in a cottage once owned by her parents. Grant was a college professor, and had affairs with several of his students.
Like Patrick, I would have liked some dramatic scenes of outrage or anguish. The movie is low key and a bit vague. Is Grant devoted to Fiona, even after she stops recognizing him, out of guilt for the affairs? Does he start the affair with Marian to secure a chance for Fiona's happiness? Is it irony that Grants infidelity, once an act considered by Fiona to be the darkest moments of their marriage, now an act that may result in her happiness? Dramas tend to be slow paced. There is no need to be subtle. Let the emotions out!
Photos © Copyright Lionsgate (2007)