Still Alice stars Julianne Moore as a brilliant linguistics professor who, at the age of 50, finds out she has early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Moore recently won the Oscar for Best Actress, and it is not difficult to see why. Her portrayal of a highly intelligent academic stricken with this terrible disease is beyond reproach. She is simply that good.
If I had to write a one-line review of the film Still Alice, I’d say it was a beautiful, painful and heart wrenching experience. As I have the luxury of more words, I am able to elaborate.
The film opens with Professor Alice Howland (Moore) who, whilst delivering a lecture to her Columbia University students, has trouble remembering a word in her speech. It seems a harmless slip, however, more of these ‘slips’ occur until she seeks a neurologist for a consultation.
The powerful art of cinematography is on full display in this movie, and the direction is brilliant. There are many scenes where you actually feel lost, displaced and disjointed – just as Alice would have in the early stages of her dementia. The soundtrack also beautifully represents the feelings associated with the disease – often I felt like I was underwater – a common descriptor for Alzheimer’s sufferers. Coupled with the picture, the sound makes for a deft description of the effects of dementia.
The film focuses on how the disease affects the family. However, it was how it portrayed Alzheimer’s affecting the individual that rocked me to my core. If there is a film around that has so effectively captured what it’s like to have dementia, I haven’t seen, nor heard of its existence.
As difficult as Still Alice was at times to watch, I could not take my eyes of the screen, even for a second. My own grandfather had Alzheimer’s when I was much younger, and I felt I owed it to him to see every detail of this film right through to the end.
Still Alice is a beautiful portrayal of the pain and heartbreak of Alzheimer’s. It shows the impact of the disease from many angles, however it does admittedly skirt around some of the truly tragic facets, such as the potential for violence and extreme frustration that Alzheimer’s patients can go through. It does, however, successfully tick most boxes.
Although at first the end wasn’t satisfactory, once I’d slept on it, I realised how truly powerful it was. There is no satisfying end to Alzheimer’s – and in hindsight, the director captured this expertly.
If you don’t cry at least once during Still Alice, may I recommend testing your heart, or, at the risk of being flippant, maybe you’ve forgotten how to feel true emotion. Still Alice is an emotionally challenging, fascinating, yet heart-rending portrayal of the tragic reality for many victims of this horrible disease.