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|Away From Her|
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir-scr Sarah Polley|
with Julie Christie, Gordon Pinsent, Olympia Dukakis, Wendy Crewson, Kristen Thomson, Michael Murphy, Alberta Watson, Thomas Hauff, Deanna Dezmari, Grace Lynn Kung, Nina Dobrev, Katie Boland
release UK 27.Apr.07, US 4.May.07
06/Canada HanWay 1h50
Don't forget me: Christie and Pinsent
Sensitively and engagingly well written, directed and acted, this is a remarkable little film. Although some filmgoers may find it a bit slow and emotionally wrenching.
Fiona and Grant (Christie and Pinsent) have been married for 45 years, and are trying to come to terms with the fact that Fiona is showing the early stages of Alzheimer's. Her pragmatism is hard for Grant to accept, but he eventually lets her move into a first-rate nursing home near their rural lake house. Then when Fiona develops an emotional attachment to another patient (Murphy), Grant must work through the ramifications with the medical staff (Crewson and Thomson), as well as the man's wife (Dukakis).
Actress-turned-writer-director Polley has a strongly lyrical filmmaking style. The script is strikingly intelligent--engaging, provocative, emotionally resonant and elegantly understated. And all of those adjectives describe her directing style as well. The imagery is poetic and striking, from the snowy landscapes to the subtly telling faces. Nothing is contrived or forced; this is an unpretentious story that digs into human connections and motivations, and the nature of unconditional love.
Christie is of course amazing in the focal role, never taking the obvious approach to a scene and maintaining Fiona's inner light, even as it changes shades. "Sometimes there's something delicious in oblivion," she says, significantly. Her chemistry with Pinsent is superb, especially in the scenes in which Fiona doesn't remember who Grant is. Meanwhile, Dukakis is lively and likeable, and Pinsent holds the film together beautifully.
Along the way, Polley and her cast somehow manage to avoid sentimentality, even though the film is heavily emotive and actually quite downbeat. Although the nursing home is seriously gorgeous, with an extremely attentive staff, it's still horrible. Even though the film sparks with personality and finds moments that are sweet, funny and sexy, it's also profoundly heartbreaking. But Polley never allows it to mope; she invests the situations and characters with an involving complexity and a raw, earthy optimism. And in the end we can find a surprising resonance in the story, even if we've never been through anything like this. That's Polley's most notable achievement.
JJQ, CT: "Sentimentally exhausting, but challenging and engaging, this is a movie experience that I will not soon forget. Indeed, a disturbed night of examination and reflection followed my viewing. Julie Christie remains the quintessential beauty and her involvement assured my attendance. I am in the mid fifties and have longing memories of her previous incarnations. While certainly a tear jerker, the movie leaves acres of material to ponder. I would give it 5 stars and would expect an Academy Award nomination for Christie and for Gordon Pinsent, her crushed companion. The dialogue is rich and clever." (22.May.07)
Eli, Austin, Texas: "What a beautiful and informational movie. Julie, ever the lady, outshines all the other women in the home in the movie. She truly is 'the lady' as one of the nurses calls her in the movie. And Gordon, his performance is priceless. I feel both will be nominated for Academy Awards and will win! Take out your newspaper and go to the obituary section. If the deceased is normal, ordinary or just plain ugly, you do not comment; however, if the deceased is beautiful, you comment with, 'Such a shame'! Beautiful people are not supposed to get sick or die!" (17.Sep.07)
© 2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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