Sunday, 14 October 2018

Still Alice

Based on the novel of the same name by Lisa Genova, this Richard Glatzer film from 2014 provides the audience with an insight into the life of a woman who is diagnosed at the age of 50 with early-onset Alzheimer's Disease. On the face of that, one could be expecting a second-rate made-for-TV 1980’s outing fit only for Channel 5 one afternoon, but this raises itself up much higher.

Julianne Moore and Alec Baldwin ensure that it attains the lofty position as they carry the film which starts off with Alice in ordinary life, mother, wife, linguistics professor and university and full of life, love and hope. She’s diagnosed after consulting with medics as she feels that her memory is slipping too much and sometimes can’t work out where she is. She works hard to fight it, applying her intelligence to slowing down the deterioration by use of various means, tools and technology.

Family life goes on around her and we’re given an insight into the impact on them along with the potential prospect for the rest of them, of the disease being hereditary and therefore already passed down. Alice tries to ensure that if she gets so bad that life becomes difficult for her and those around her by leaving herself instructions in a video on her laptop to end it all. A future-date suicide pact with herself. Question is, how to ensure that she knows to watch it.

The film is shot sympathetically taking into account the subject matter, using techniques I’ve seen Woody Allen use around social gatherings, mixed company (especially around meal tables), multiple conversations, differing focus and audio channelling. It’s also in evidence in interview situations, focusing only and fixedly on the interviewee and throughout, never seeing the interviewer. I’m not sure if it has a name but the technique adds drama, focus and closeness for the indulgence of the viewer. The photography also reflects the world-view of Alice as we head through the deterioration by use of sweeping zoom and focus.

As you would imagine, it’s very sad and moving in places but never plummets into soppy and sycophantic. Julianne Moore may not have made much of a Clarice Starling but she has portrayed Alice here excellently and shows once again that she is an accomplished actor. The supporting cast all do a reasonable job, though the two leads grab most screen time. Well worth a look if you have the chance.

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