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The Statesman

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The Statesman

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    Away From Her

    ‘Away From Her,’ directed by Sarah Polley, could easily be categorized as one of the most heart-wrenching and poignant films of this year. Polley gives her viewers an almost too-realistic and aching glimpse into the world of an elderly couple whose lives are wrenched apart when Fiona (Julie Christie) is confronted with Alzheimer’s disease.

    It all starts out innocently enough: a misplaced frying pan, a vague absentmindedness and fumbling for everyday words, that first alerts Fiona’s husband Grant (Olympia Dukakis) that something is going terribly wrong.

    Fiona herself sums it up succinctly, when she jokes rather half-heartedly that, ‘I think I may be beginning to disappear.” A somewhat chilling statement that foreshadows Fiona’s eventual succumbing to the disease, as her memory slowly ebbs away. Memories that unfortunately, must include that of her 44-year-old marriage to her husband.

    And in fact, it is Fiona and Grant’s marriage that Polley truly fixates on in the film. Once confronted with Alzheimer’s disease breathing down her neck, both Fiona and Grant must grapple with ghosts of the past and at the same time, steel themselves for the inevitable loss they will encounter in the future.

    Christie is phenomenal as Fiona and calls to mind the old saying ‘grace under fire,’ for Fiona is truly the epitome of grace.

    From her lively blue eyes, and cascade of gray hair, to the courageous and almost heroic way she acknowledges and faces her disease, Christie embodies Fiona with a quiet dignity and determination that makes her eventual downfall all the more tragic.

    To see such a vibrant and vivacious woman in the beginning of the film and to contrast it with the woman Fiona becomes in the end of the film is heart-breaking to the audience, and even more so, to her husband.

    Grant must watch helplessly as his wife grows more and more estranged from him, until one day, she no longer remembers him at all, and is surprised and curious at the fact that he comes back day after day to visit her. It is saddening to watch Fiona greet her husband with mild bewilderment and never the anticipated kiss hello, saying simply, ‘You’re a very persistent man.’

    Dukakis also deserves commendation for his fine acting. He infuses the role of Grant with a sort of desperate and chivalrous air. It is almost as if Grant knows that he didn’t always appreciate his wife in the past and is now trying desperately to make things right with her before she slips away from him completely.

    ‘Away From Her’ is a remarkable film, most notably for Polley’s ability to effortlessly weave the life lessons of love and loss throughout. At the same time Polley visibly shows the audience what true love really is ‘- that is, the ability to stick by someone when you could have just as easily left and forsaken them, and above all else, to put someone else’s happiness before your own.

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