Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Location: milwaukee, wi

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Away From Her (Sarah Polley, 2006)

As every review I have read has already said, Away From Her is a beautiful, delicate film about aging based on a short story by Alice Munro and made with surprising insight by 28 year old actress Sarah Polley. While this may come as a huge surprise to those who have not seen Polley in Atom Egoyan's films, her performances (especially in The Sweet Hereafter - link?) prepared me for this film of uncommon depth and empathy. Egoyan is in fact an executive producer on the film, and it bears the stamp of his influence on Polley's craft. The performances, especially from Julie Christie as Fiona, the woman dealing with the onset and quick progression of Alzheimer's, and Gordon Pinset as her husband, are stellar and realistic, incredibly moving in their delicacy yet power.

The reason I could not love this movie like I wanted to, though, was simply because of its honesty. My paternal grandma has advanced Alzheimer's, and every single thing in this movie rang true. Christie's character goes, in about a month, from forgetting words and places to not recognizing her husband, and although that seems radical, it is what happens. She remembers particular incidents long after her husband thinks her mind is long gone, something that still, even in these last days of the disease, happens to my grandmother; she has no idea who my brother or I are, but will ask him how his baseball team is doing. The nursing home in the film is also exactly as my experience has been; "balloon badminton," as funny as it sounds, is something I've witnessed, as well as the divide between the more removed administration and the more empathetic nurses. So if this movie has a fault, it is within me. I almost couldn't stand to watch the movie because of my own life experience; a few times, I felt like I almost had to get up and leave.

But if this was an intense experience for me, is that not indicative of the power of film? Perhaps I only now realized the intensity and enormity of this disease that has been a part of my family's life for five years now, through these characters that I never knew. It's something that is a part of my life every day, I have become accustomed to the decline, the tragedy of the disappearing mind, but only seeing others dealing with exactly what my family has been made me realize exactly how terrible it is. So congratulations to Polley (who's script is a little better than the direction, although there are some achingly beautiful moments) and the entire cast (it's really a five-character movie, and one of those characters doesn't even speak once but manages to convey a world of feelings) on a wonderful movie, but I do want to acknowledge that this will be a hard movie for some to watch. Hard, but important.


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