By Admin | January 21, 2007

Looking at a person he’s been married to for decades, Grant can see the women he spent his life with, but he can’t actually communicate with her like he used to. Alzheimer’s Disease has depleted her memory and sense of time and place. In Sarah Polley’s “Away from Her,” Julie Christie gives a fabulous performance of mysterious, unclear depth as Fiona.

At first, Christie’s character senses her mind going, but still can still speak coherently and even make the occasional joke. “Isn’t she too young?” Grant (Gordon Pinsent) keeps asking the specialists, hoping she’s just had a forgetful streak recently. He doesn’t want to put her in a nursing home, but Fiona, capable enough understand her problem but losing her short-term memory, definitely wants to go.

Pinsent offers a fine performance as Grant, whose love and devotion for his wife also reflect a needy loneliness he has developed in his old age. He provides the perfect lens with which to view Fiona’s deterioration. After not visiting his wife for a month due to the nursing home’s regulation, he finds that much more of her memory has gone, and that she has grown attached to one of her nursing home companions (Michael Murphy), a further-progressed man who grows upset like a spoiled child whenever he sees someone competing for Fiona’s attention. This new man has his own wife (Olympia Dukakis), but neither he nor Fiona can be faulted for this betrayal, since both characters have lost their mental capacity.

The rich story first features several stages of Grant’s devotion. First, the character has to come to terms with the disease, but the new revelations make it a consistently growing challenge with more and more unexpected developments. With the exception of some questionable flash forwards, Polley manages it all nicely in her feature debut, confidently relying on the strength of her actors, but with a strong visual sense. The nursing home head likes to brag about all the natural light the building receives, but Polley coyly shoots with over-exposed, blown-out windows that emphasize the location’s isolation. Even if Grant can speak with his loved one, he is still isolated due to her disease, and lucky if he can extract a fleeting trace of the relationship that they once had.

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