A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
Doubling back to pick up some titles I missed in the last year
"Away From Her" is the fifth film I’ve seen about Alzheimer’s in these opening years of the century, and the best, although only one of them has been disappointing. Using sympathy and tenderness for its characters, “Away From Her” tells the story of a marriage that drifts out of the memory of the wife, and of the husband’s efforts to deal with that fact. We have two Canadian women to thank for this film: the writer and director, Sarah Polley (born 1979), and the author of the short story that inspired it, Alice Munro (born 1931). Munro in her short fiction has the ability to evoke a lifetime in images and dialogue of almost startling perception. Polley with her camera takes the material, finds an uncanny balance in her casting, and bathes the film in the mercy of simple truth.
Fiona and Grant Anderson (Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent) have been married more than 40 years, mostly happily despite some stumbles. They have the beauty in age they had in youth, although it is weathered now, as a park bench looks more inviting after some seasons in the sun. They have been told she has Alzheimer’s disease. The movie spares us coy early scenes where she seems healthy and then starts to slip; she starts right out putting a frying pan into the refrigerator.
They’re retired, live in a cottage overlooking fields that are perfect for cross-country skiing. They look robust in their cold-weather gear, and when they come inside from their daily skiing, they look so comfortable with each other that they make us feel cozy. Just as the models in plus-size catalogs always look thin, so the models in retirement ads always look like these two: youthful, athletic, foxy.