Guest Review: Still Alice (2015)

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Poster from myrmorko

A linguistics professor and her family find their bonds tested when she is diagnosed with Early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease.

“Still Alice” tells the story of Alice Howland a professor of linguistics who gets diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The film is told almost entirely from Alice’s point of view and Julianne Moore is on screen in almost every scene. Getting the obvious out the way, Julianne Moore is absolutely terrific as Alice. She deservedly won the Oscar, the BAFTA and all the other awards. Moore inhabits Alice completely and the scenes where she doesn’t recognise streets, family members and her home are utterly believable. It is a testament to the filmmakers that for a film about (the inevitability) of Alzheimer’s disease that it manages to be triumphant and anything but depressing.

A lot of the plaudits also need to go to the directors (Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland). This could easily have been told from the family’s point of view, showing all the scenes where they struggle to comprehend what is happening to Alice and leaving us to forget about the real victim. It is canny that the filmmakers have chosen to focus on the way it would feel to suffer from Alzheimer’s. The clip that has been doing the rounds featuring Kristen Stewart asking her Mum about what it’s like living with Alzheimer’s is talismanic for the film. It feels honest and the sort of conversation that you would have with a member of your own family.

It is not sentimental and the loneliness of it is subtly communicated through Denis Lenoir’s photography. He blurs the background and focuses on Alice as she forgets where she is or where she is going. This perfectly encapsulates the feeling of isolation she is going through. The interactions with the family as a group also work really well, they feel genuine especially with the subtle differences between how each of the family members react. The contrast between Kate Bosworth and Kristen Stewart’s reactions is particularly striking, and Alec Baldwin really puts in an excellent supporting turn. His initial anger and indignation, then movement towards acceptance of the inevitable situation in a matter of two or three scenes is well juxtaposed and devastating.

The film later jumps time frame as Alice’s condition takes over which is to the films credit not jarring and according to my better half (a doctor who has had to deal with Alzheimer’s) an accurate representation of what it is/would be like for the sufferer of the disease. The title is prophetic that even through all of the struggles and loss of memory, she is Still Alice and flashes of her former self pop up just as we think hope is lost.

As Julianne Moore has echoed in her award acceptance speeches, hopefully the medical research will be done to ensure that fewer people have to deal with this terrible disease and we will look back on this film as what once was other than an inevitability.

Review by James, who initially threw his two cents in on Mr Turner and The Imitation Game. He’s becoming quite a permanent fixture on Movieblort !

Follow him on Twitter @imdabestman.

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