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3 reviews, 29 user ratings

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Away From Her
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by brianorndorf

"The delicate pain of love's last embrace"
5 stars

Sarah Polley doesn’t supply easy answers in her film “Away From Her,” but what the viewer gets instead is a fiercely intelligent show of human interaction on a candid, heartbreaking scale in a film you won’t soon forget.

Fiona (Julie Christie) and Grant (Gordon Pinsent) have been wed for 44 years, now enjoying their twilight years in the wilds of snowy Canada. When Julie’s memory loss turns into a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, she insists on being placed in a home, much to Grant’s horror. After time, Fiona’s health worsens and she meets another man that, in her confused state, she falls in love with. This places Grant in the uncomfortable position of losing a wife who doesn’t even recognize him anymore, leaving him alone and helpless.

Polley, an actress by day (“Dawn of the Dead,” “The Sweet Hereafter”), conveys an extraordinary amount of sensitivity in her adaptation of Alice Munro’s short story “The Bear Came Over the Mountain.” “Away From Her” is Polley’s feature-length directorial debut, but you’d think after watching the film the 28-year-old actress has been behind the camera for decades. “Away” is confident, attentive filmmaking, inching near a subject that can only lead to catastrophe and daring to treat these older characters with complexity and respect.

Alzheimer’s as a disease is a rare destructive force that is almost poetic in the way it slowly robs the life from those inflicted, evaporating right before their eyes. It’s a wide-awake nightmare and to cinematically embody that cruel twist of fate, it needs someone brave enough to appreciate the density of a disease that not only takes lives, but entire familial and romantic histories.

It’s a gloved directorial effort from Polley; she skillfully approaches the tension between Fiona and Grant to reverse engineer the tragedy. I fear that if I describe the film as heavy, it will scare people away, but there’s a blueberry sadness to the film that squeezes the heart tightly. But what’s wrong with some tears? Polley’s arduous ride of denial is profound in the way it manages the multiplicity of marital relationships and a love that has become rudely erased by disease. Scored to a soothing acoustic guitar and surrounded by fabulously desolate locations (a Canadian winter wonderland postcard), the ambiance is mournful, yet oddly comforting. It’s fireplace introspection, which Polley plays beautifully over the faces of the actors.

In Julie Christie’s performance, Fiona’s memory loss is given an unreal range of hope and fear, each penetrating moment represented through expressions of perceptive dread and wrenching pain. It’s a fragile role, as it must communicate the slow burn of the Alzheimer’s and confirm Grant’s increasing suspicion that Fiona might be using the ailment as revenge for his past improprieties. It’s a gorgeous acting job from Christie, striking those moods of frustration, depression, and infirmed calm so vividly. It’s a disturbingly authentic performance and one of her best.

“Away” assembles even more intricate plotting in the second half of the film, with Grant finding solace in the arms of another woman (Olympia Dukakis) and facing his fear that he’s lost Fiona for good. The frustrations of the film start to add up to a distressing degree, but the peaceful way Polley lets the drama spread out makes all the difference in the world. “Away From Her” is not a painless sit, but it’s a rewarding dramatic endeavor, prepared with extreme care and comfort to better swallow such an unjust and sorrowful turn of life.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=14871&reviewer=404
originally posted: 05/11/07 01:15:20
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2006 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Vancouver Film Festival For more in the 2006 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2007 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Portland Film Festival For more in the 2007 Portland Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Florida Film Festival For more in the 2007 Florida Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2007 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Independent Film Festival of Boston For more in the 2007 Independent Film Festival of Boston series, click here.

User Comments

1/11/16 Ed Riddick Great acting and photography, smooth and masterful direction, sometimes clumsy script. 4 stars
9/27/13 Bill Burnett Great, heart-breaking, luminous film making 5 stars
9/27/10 BT Cornelius doesn't know what he's talking about; the movie has near-universal acclaim 4 stars
2/03/10 brian Julie Christie is brilliant but surrounded by unlikeable characters and it's sl-o-o-o-o-w. 3 stars
3/25/09 Anonymous. a more realistic look at Alzheimer's than the notebook. the review under this is wrong. 5 stars
3/03/09 Richard Laurence Totally unrealistic. Insulting to Alzheimer's patients & caregivers. Inane plot & dialogue. 1 stars
2/22/09 Mozza Rather a glamorous view of Alzheimers's I think. It's much tougher! 3 stars
1/11/09 C Wagner Away From Her is a heart-wrenching drama. Great story and performances. Don't be so jaded. 5 stars
11/19/08 tiffany lambert great, heart-wrenching film. 5 stars
4/12/08 kp lost my mother to alzeimers - hated it, not even a glimmer of truth regarding the disease 2 stars
4/03/08 Catherine Curtis Loved It!!!!! 5 stars
3/29/08 jcjs 'his real intentions soon reveal' (is insane to say)..masterpiece..perfect 5 stars
3/16/08 Helen Outrageously unrealistic, Fiona was far from needing institutional care, one word-DOORLOCK! 2 stars
1/26/08 Jim An unforgettable film. Fantastic. 5 stars
1/21/08 alex There is not a genuine criticism to be found in this review. 5 stars
12/16/07 mb Didn't seem real, but politically scripted 2 stars
11/26/07 Alex Amazing.. the best of 2007 5 stars
9/16/07 betsy watched this on a plane and purposly watched AGAIN just to catch the details... great! 5 stars
8/25/07 Zaimah movie was bad but story was ok 2 stars
6/19/07 Lamb Julie christie is crazy beautiful! Sarah rocks as a director. 5 stars
6/15/07 William Goss Tender, touching tale of love lost to Alzheimer's. Kudos all around both on and off-screen. 4 stars
6/08/07 Heather Sarah Polley is worth looking out for 5 stars
6/02/07 dmitry samarov Devastating 5 stars
10/18/06 Wendy I loved this film. Beautifully written and paced, sensitive & well acted. 5 stars
10/17/06 Shane Awful writing, terrible cinematic values, felt like a cheap MOW 1 stars
10/03/06 Abdullah Nahid Niger Awesome weaving of sequences. 5 stars
9/17/06 Ancaster Film Fest Marvelous script and performances. Beautifully filmed. 5 stars
9/17/06 denny in my mind the film of the festival; never felt manipulated; can't wait for polley's next 5 stars
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  04-May-2007 (PG-13)
  DVD: 11-Sep-2007



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