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Away from Her

August 24, 2010

Away from Her (2006)
Director: Sarah Polley
Actors: Gordon Pinsent, Julie Christie, Olympia Dukakis

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Synopsis: Fiona and Grant Armstrong (Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent) make the slow transition to dealing with, and accepting, Fiona’s Alzheimer’s condition.

Review: This is a sage and well-dramatised account of the undercurrents manifested in an elderly couple’s marriage when the wife slowly succumbs to Alzheimer’s and voluntarily institutionalises herself. The didactic temptations must have been great in an ‘issue picture’ like this, so director Sarah Polley deserves tremendous credit for keeping the material chaste and eminently believable. Cleverly, the film’s main focus is not on Julie Christie’s patient, but her husband, played by Gordon Pinsent, whose love and sense of duty is tested by the ethical and sentimental distress the disease causes. Pinsent’s performance is a masterclass in understatement, and Polley’s treatment in general eschews syrupy tropes like a maudlin score and soapy plot machinations for an ending that stays true to the film’s realistic representations of the illness, yet affords its characters a sense of elegy. (March 2008)

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