Location: Los Angeles, California

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Away from Her

Sarah Polley's "Away from Her" is the best film I've seen so far this year. It's a heart-wrenching yet hopeful picture, so delicate and understanding in its depiction of Alzheimer's disease. And the acting from Gordon Pinsent and Julie Christie is transcendent.

Christie, still a natural beauty at the age of 66, doesn't ham it up; her performance is authentic and true, bold and complex. Pinsent matches her in every scene as a husband who must watch his loved one gradually fade away. His initial loneliness and anger seeps into our own perspective; we become him, gazing at this unfortunate situation, grasping at straws in our attempt to somehow improve the circumstance.

Yet, this film's champion is Polley, who at the tender age of 28 has constructed a film with the wisdom and eloquence normally reserved for those directors who've been around the block for a few decades.

Her script never says more than it needs to, and her camera's metaphors never strike a misguided note. One image particularly made an impression. Grant (Pinsent) is outside on the chilly Canadian snow, his voice-over telling the viewer how his wife's brain will slowly disconnect, as if all the switches in a switchboard were individually shut off. He then turns around and looks at his cabin, and as he does, each light in the house turns off one by one until he is left with a completely dark home.

He knows what the future holds. All that's left is to determine how he will respond - with self-pity or with a measure of grace?

Rating: **** (out of ****)


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