In sickness and in health

YOURLifeChoices goes back to its movie review archives to highlight a touching yet sometimes harrowing movie about the reality of Alzheimer’s.

Julie Christie stars in Away from her, a simple but moving story about the changes that occur in long marriage as Alzheimer’s takes hold on one of the couple.

Based on the story, The Bear Came over the Mountain, by Canadian writer Alice Munro, Away from her is set in snow-covered Canada and directed by respected Canadian actress, Sarah Polley. She has approached her first full-length film with a simple, restrained touch, which avoids the ‘impressive’ camera angles or forced stylisation many directors seem compelled to employ early in their careers. This allows the story to unfold with a subtlety and tenderness especially appropriate to the subject matter.

Married for 50 years, Grant (Gordon Pinsent) and Fiona (Julie Christie) have a committed and loving marriage, the serenity of which is only occasionally broken by Fiona’s references to a past betrayal. When Fiona is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and has to move into a home, her memory and recognition of her husband disappears. Grant is forced to watch as her affections completely turn towards another man in the nursing home.

It’s refreshing to see a depiction of Alzheimer’s which doesn’t focus entirely on the physical degradations but rather, on the way even the most comfortable and loving relationships are affected. Away from her is a reminder of how lives can be turned upside down at any age, shining a light on the complexities and cyclical nature of marriage as well as the painful consequences of a debilitating disease.

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