Away She Goes: In actress Sarah Polley's (The Sweet Hereafter, My Life Without Me) new movie, Away From Her, actress becomes director to two of cinemas great actresses. She directs not one but two Academy Award winners and does so with ease and great skill. She out directs and out writes many of Hollywood's more well known directors; especially those who focus mainly on popcorn movies.
The film stars the incomparable Julie Christie as Fiona Anderson, a woman who is facing the debilitating Alzheimer's disease. As Fiona, Christie very cognizant and serene about what she faces but behind that serene facade lies hurt, pain and sadness. Gordon Pinsent stars as Grant, the steadfast and suffering husband. He realizes what must be done when he can no longer care for Fiona. Fiona too realizes that she is beyond her husband's care and they both agree that she be admitted to Meadowlake a nursing home for patients with Alzheimer's.
The film takes a turn when Fiona befriends a wheelchair bound patient played by character actor Michael Murphy. Murphy plays Aubrey, a man who becomes very close to Fiona; so close in fact that Grant becomes all but jealous of his wife's affections to Aubrey. The fact that Grant can only look on helplessly at who is wife is becoming (more and more unlike the woman he married) becomes all the more poignant and sad.
Olympia Dukakis plays Marian, Aubrey's wife, whom Grant seeks out once Aubrey leaves the home. After Aubrey leaves, a disturbing thing happens to Fiona and Grant is desperate to help her even if it means hurting himself. Christie gives such a moving and layered performance that we can never tell if her memory loss is intentional or a product of the disease. Even Grant remarks at one point, "what if she is punishing me."
Polley, who also wrote the script, delivers a quietly powerful film about love, loss, transformation, lonliness and despair. It's a film with hope and a film with wonderful character development. It's crisply edited and Christie still has it. She delivers a radiant master class in acting and must be recognized come Academy Awards time.
Away From Her is by far the best film of the year so far. Polley could quit acting tomorrow and be off to a great start as a career director.
Bags of popcorn (out of 5): 5