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STILL ALICE (review)

still_aliceSTILL ALICE

Written and Directed by Richard Glazer and Wash Westmoreland / Starring Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin and Kristen Stewart

Dr. Alice Howland: It feels like my fucking brain is dying and everything I’ve worked for my entire life is going.

Watching STILL ALICE is like watching a horror movie unfold. Only it isn’t a horror movie. It is a simply told, effectively executed film about the deterioration of one woman’s mind. It is also an incredible showcase for one of the most talented and beautiful actresses working today, Julianne Moore. The only trouble with it is that it is so heartbreaking that it may be very difficult for viewers to get through.

At no more than 50 years old, Dr. Alice Howland, a respected academic in the field of linguistics, begins to miss her words. We are introduced to her when she is speaking to a class about the earliest patterns of speech in infants that demonstrate an innate desire to speak and communicate. She theorizes that this ability stems directly from memory, that infants will repeat what they’ve learned and observed in their little time on Earth. She is eloquent, intelligent and captivating, which makes it all the more powerful when she gets stuck on a word in her speech. She casually blames a glass of champagne she had at lunch but we now know exactly what she is about to lose.

Julianne-Moore-Leads-Womens-Film-Critics-Circle-Winners

At first, she is afraid that she has a brain tumour. When she finds out that she has a very rare form of Alzheimer’s, she actually wishes that she had the tumour. I can’t say that I blame her either. At least you can fight the tumour. The idea of losing one’s memory little by little to the point where you are completely disconnected from the life you knew and the person you spent your whole life trying to be is just frightening. To have that happen as such an early age, at an age when no one yet expects to be dealing with anything quite so horrifying, is almost unthinkable.

Those who are brave enough to watch this bleak film will be privy to one of the finest performances of Moore’s already illustrious career. The fear and isolation she is experiencing are constantly being hidden any way possible and you can see that internal struggle in her eyes at all times. At first, you can see her fighting; you can see her putting on a brave face for everyone around her (including her husband, played by Alec Baldwin, and her three children, played by Kate Bosworth, Hunter Parrish and a surprisingly impressive, Kristen Stewart). As she eventually loses the ability to fight back though, you see her retreating and disappearing little by little inside herself.

Alec Baldwin & Julianne Moore Film 'Still Alice'

My biggest fear going into STILL ALICE is that it would feature one fantastic performance and very little else but fortunately, that is not at all the case here. Writing/Directing team, Richard Glazer and Wash Westmoreland, fill the rest of the space with family dynamics that are simultaneously repulsive and inspiring. What Alice endures affects everyone in her life and as her lucidity fades, it becomes a race to repair any damage incurred previously and connect in a way that will never be possible again after a certain point. It is easy to judge the decisions the family makes to persevere but it is also wrong to do so. The position they’re in is practically unfathomable.

My biggest fear after seeing STILL ALICE is that it won’t find an audience. I am only 37 years old and this film scared me a great deal. I can only imagine how it might impact someone who is actually Alice’s age of older. My heart was broken over and over again watching this poignant picture but in the best way possible. It won’t be easy to go there but it will be worth it.

4.5 sheep

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