Despite stellar reviews, Sarah Polley’s Away From Her got hopelessly lost in the shuffle of blockbusters released ahead of Memorial Day. A distinctly grown-up drama—about an elderly Canadian couple’s struggle with one’s Alzheimer’s disease—it deserved to do much better business.
In a magnificently regal performance, 66-year-old Julie Christie plays Fiona, the wife of a self-satisfied academic, Grant (Gordon Pinsent), who reluctantly acquiesces to her desire to be placed in a facility for long-term care. Naturally apprehensive of the likely effects of her illness, Fiona has steeled herself for the journey into the unknown. Grant, who’s treated Fiona shabbily in the past, isn’t nearly as ready. He refuses to accept the cruel separation, even when his wife of 50 years deserts him for an old crush. If all this sounds too depressing, skeptical browsers should know that much joy can be derived from watching great actors work at the top of their game. This includes Michael Murphy’s portrayal of the mute, wheelchair-bound patient who immediately draws Fiona’s attention, and Olympia Dukakis’ amazing portrait of his emotionally empty wife. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Polley and all four of her primary actors are nominated for important awards come December and January.
Away From Her