Still Alice (2014)
Mine like many other families have been affected by Alzheimer’s in recent years. A few years ago the horrible disease took my Granddad, one of the first men in my life I looked upto as a male role model besides my dad. It was an experience that is becoming more universal with every passing day. He was 89 when he died, he had a good life, leaving a strong and loving family behind him. He was loved to pieces by us all, and we all saw him fade away from the cheeky chapie with a big heart that we knew as Granddad, dad and brother. Being in his late 80’s you kind of expect your older relatives to die and deteriorate, taken from us by something.
When Alzheimer’s strikes when you still have a good few decades before you it’s even more of shock for the sufferer and their family. We don’t really associate this disease, this b****** with the younger people. I’ve yet to meet someone myself, I hope that day is far, far away. For someone like Alice Howland (Julianne Moore) a 50-year-old professor of phonology it’s just as hard. A woman who has gone for it all, achieved incredible things, lectured around the world, in short she was a success until recently when she began to have lapses in memory. Could it just be age creeping up on her, all part of growing old. Or maybe not as the film progresses, it becomes clear this is not a normal part of ageing, its early onset Alzheimer’s. In a word a death sentence that sees the individual slowly looses all they have gained in life, memories, the ability to think and feel, they are a shell of their former self.
Still Alice (2014) could be just another standard family drama where someone contracts a debilitating disease, nothing new there. However in the hands of Moore it’s brought to another level, an actress who we know won all the awards going this last year. Supported mostly by unknowns who are there more to show the effects of Alzheimer’s on the family. When the news that he disease has potentially been passed down from mother to children, it hits home, could I develop this horrible beast that could rob me of everything I have achieved. Maybe it was that I have been affected by it indirectly I was more prone to the idea being planted, I’ve known it for a few years. My Dad has become a more avid reader, keeping the mind active. Its real and you really feel it on-screen
Brought even more closer to home thanks to Moore who tries her best to live with Alzheimer’s and all that it is doing to her. Relying on technology to keep the brain active. For an academic its far harder to see the most vital part of your body deteriorate and have no control over it. Using her phone to constantly test her. Whilst also recording a video…just in case the worst happens which we hope anyway, its planted in the back of our minds. For Alice its a message from the past into the very much uncertain future.
Thankfully her family sticks by her, some you really can’t engage with, whilst her youngest daughter Lydia Howland (Kristen Stewart) who is living away trying to make a life for herself on the stage, which her mother disagrees with, wanting a college life for her. Using the disease to try and manipulate her, before giving up, using the “I’m your mother” line. They do have the strongest relationship in the film, their differences make them stronger together. Lydia’s distance makes her want to communicate more. I guess the younger you are, the more you notice the little changes, wanting to see as much of them whilst you can. Something I did with Granddad when a visit came up I grabbed it, every moment is precious. We see between these two as they try to understand what is going on.
When Lydia’s not there we have the reliable Alec Baldwin as husband John Howland who gives a sensitive performance as he is struggling to cope with his wife as she deteriorates, if only we saw more of him, how the primary carer was outside of the home. Taking up a post in another state seems to be his way of carrying on. Is he running away? I don’t know, things are still happening for him, a life still full of opportunity, able to enjoy his family. This is the only major fault, the lack of focus on the primary carer who replaced by Lydia who makes an even bigger sacrifice. That would probably be the only real weakness. It’s clear the focus is all on Alice and rightly so really, the rest otherwise is there to pick up the piece of her suffering. If I could take anything away from this film is again a heightened awareness of this horrible disease that knows no bounds. We cannot escape it now, its how we deal with it that makes us stronger. I know I had to laugh otherwise I would cry. There was not a moment I wasn’t thinking of my Granddad, how my Uncles and Aunties cared for him, coped with the loss of their Dad before their eyes. Something that we are seeing more of.
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