Film review – Still Alice
Memory loss has often be romanticised or underplayed in mainstream culture. Films like ‘50 First Dates’ and ‘The Notebook’ touch on the subjects but reassure the viewer by proving that love conquers all. The element of tragedy is typically overwhelmed by the beauty and romance of the story so that it doesn’t force the viewers to confront the ugly truth behind dementia, memory loss and Alzheimer’s. It is a tried and tested plotline and love story that many have grown to love.
But Still Alice breaks this formula and shows you the ugly, raw truth behind such diseases and mental impediments – and it’s far from a touching romantic comedy. The film reveals the cruelty, frustration and grief that sufferers feel as they gradually lose their memory and parts of their identity.
The film introduces us to Alice, played by Julianne Moore; who’s an academic, successful wife and mother of three children that lives the life she has always dreamed to. She lectures at Columbia University, travels the world to impart her considerable knowledge and shares her research in the field of linguistics. Her life seems perfect, until she is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s at the age of 50 and she has to face losing her lifetime of memories, and hard work.
There is no ‘one big moment’ or accident to define the illness, but each small detail – from forgetting a word to confusedly stumbling around her home looking for her phone – creates a patchwork of the lost moments and thoughts that make each person themselves. Alice bravely tackles this decline whilst desperately striving to hold on to her dignity, clarity of mind and academic prowess.
In under two hours we see Alice become a completely different person; from a respected linguistics professor and author, to a shuffling confused woman struggling to remember her own daughter’s name. This adds an informative and realistic nature to the film that has clearly been thoroughly researched and developed to mimic the devastating reality of Alzheimer’s disease.
This attention to detail also translates into the cinematography and musical underscore that adds to the beauty of the film despite the sensitive subject matter. It ensures that you can’t take your eyes away from the screen, even at the most uncomfortable scenes that are hard to watch as they are interspersed by stunning landscape shots and expertly created flashbacks to happier times which fade along with her memory.
Still Alice painstakingly creates a beautiful tension that is only occasionally punctuated by an unconvincing and lacklustre performance by Kristen Stewart. Whether it’s running around with vampires in ‘The Twilight Saga’, or dealing with the tender subject of a daughter watching her mother fade before her eyes, Stewart remains resolutely awkward and sullen. Contrasted with the brilliance and subtlety of Moore’s performance, this is even more notable but still a minor flaw in an otherwise poignant film.
It is a challenging film both mentally and in it’s slow pace as you follow Alice’s journey and are forced to feel each raw emotion presented. In a world where your memories and identify are the most precious things in your life, you find yourself marvelling at her courage and determination to recognise herself as still being Alice – highly recommended 4/5 stars.
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Posted on 27th March 2015 by Elinore Court.
Elinore Court lives at Liberty House in London, she is studying a masters degree in Magazine Journalism at City University.