out of Five
Running time: 110
Superbly directed by actress-turned-writer-director Sarah Polley and featuring a deservedly Oscar-nominated performance by Julie Christie, this is a brilliantly written drama that packs a powerful emotional punch.
What's it all about?
Gordon Pinsent plays Grant, a pensioner who struggles to cope when his wife of 45 years (Julie Christie as Fiona) develops Alzheimer's. Eventually, Grant admits defeat and moves Fiona into a first-rate nursing home, but this brings its own problems when Fiona develops an emotional attachment to another patient (Michael Murphy) and appears to forget Grant completely.
Julie Christie gives a deservedly Oscar-nominated performance as Fiona and she's genuinely heart-breaking to watch, especially in the scenes where she doesn't remember her husband. Pinsent's performance is the less showy of the two, but he's equally good and there's indisputable chemistry between him and Christie.
As for the supporting roles, Michael Murphy is perfectly cast because he's an actor usually associated with dialogue-heavy parts, so it's disconcerting and strangely upsetting to have him reduced to near catatonia here. There's also strong support from both Wendy Crewson (as a member of staff) and Olympia Dukakis (who has been off our screens for far too long) as Murphy's wife, who Grant turns to for emotional support.
Actress-turned-writer-director Sarah Polley (who adapted Alice Munro's short story The Bear Came Over The Mountain) displays a strong visual sense that suits the story perfectly and Luc Montpelier's stunning camerawork makes effective use of the snowy landscapes and lakeside locations.
In addition, Polley's script is both intelligent and sensitive, refusing to indulge in sentimentality and never resorting to cliche, particularly in the depiction of the realities of the nursing home. As a result, the film is both emotionally complex and thoroughly engaging throughout.
In short, Away From Her is a wonderfully acted, brilliantly written and genuinely moving film that confirms Sarah Polley as a director to watch. Highly recommended.
Away From Her (12A)