Monday, 26 January 2015
FILM REVIEW: STILL ALICE
Icon Films Distribution
The mind is a terrible thing to waste. It's an equally terrible thing to lose, particularly if your intellect is integral to who you are, your vocation and how you engage with the world on a professional and personal level.
Alice Howland, a linguistics professor at Columbia University, has a beautiful mind -- but it's slipping. Forgotten appointments, becoming disoriented whilst jogging on campus, and not being able to recall the word 'lexicon' during a seminar are indicators that something is not quite right.
Alice (Julianne Moore) suspects a brain tumor but the diagnosis is worse: early onset Alzheimer's disease. Ironically, the disease will see Alice's cognitive condition decrease at a faster rate to other sufferers because of her higher I.Q. Still Alice, written and directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland from a novel by Lisa Genova, charts the progress of this disease and Alice's mental decline in a rather straightforward, melodrama-free study.
While her husband (Alec Baldwin) and grown children (Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, Hunter Parrish) are devastated by the news (the disease's genetic factor has implications for all three children) and are fully supportive, this is very much Alice's story and journey. And the directors couldn't have asked for a more effective conduit than Julianne Moore.
What could so easily have been a 'disease of the week' telemovie is elevated by Moore's restrained performance. Watching the light gradually fade from this bright woman's eyes as the disease takes its toll and every day words, her children's names and her very identity are misplaced or erased from her memory is difficult to watch. And Moore conveys it all without histrionics; Alice withdraws into herself, diminishing physically as well as mentally.
But she is still Alice. In the film's most powerful scene, the former professor gives a speech at an Alzheimer's conference where she gives word to her daily battle to remember and reclaim who and what she is. While it may not appear to be the case, Alice, the real Alice, is there; trapped on the inside looking out.
If we are nothing more than the collection of our memories, do we cease to exist when we no longer have access to or the ability to recall those memories? The ability to remember who we were, what we achieved and whom we loved? Still Alice takes an unblinking look at the insidious nature of Alzheimer's disease, the gathering yet silent storm, with Julianne Moore as our emotional weathervane.