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If Julianne Moore Bags an Oscar We All Win

15/02/2015 22:45 | Updated 17 April 2015

It's Oscar time and the media here in the UK is full of stories about us Brits beating the Yanks to those coveted statuettes. I'm as patriotic as the next woman when it comes to supporting the home team but this year I'm rooting for an American to win best actress.

I want Julianne Moore to fend off her UK rivals - Felicity Jones for her intelligent portrayal of Stephen Hawking's wife in The Theory of Everything and Rosamund Pike for Amy, the chillingly convincing psychopath in Gone Girl - and pull off a well-deserved hat-trick.

I've nothing against our girls, who were both outstanding, but if Moore repeats her successes in the Golden Globes and Baftas, something very dear to my heart could become more talked about, in better ways, and less misunderstood and stigmatised. I'm thinking of dementia, which affects 850,000 of us in the UK and over five million Americans.

Still Alice, the film in which Moore plays a Columbia university professor whose life begins to unravel when she's diagnosed with Alzheimer's aged 50 is based on a novel of the same name. The book, by Lisa Genova, is a perceptive, sometimes terrifying, insight into what it is to have the condition, played out through the medium of a well-crafted story that also explores the complexities of family life.

The movie is still more potent. In the words of Wendy Mitchell, a 68-year-old from York diagnosed with Alzheimer's seven months ago, it was "shockingly powerful" to watch the film and see her own future unfold in front of her in 90 minutes.

The strength of the film, as with the book, lies in its unyielding truth. The sense of loss - of a husband (played by chunkily handsome Alec Baldwin) losing his sleek, intelligent wife, of children losing the mother who provides the rock in their adult lives, and of Alice slowly losing herself - is all pervasive.

And yet Julianne Moore shines, devastatingly. She's never, quite, not beautiful. The trace of who she was is always there, in the line of her elegant neck or the tilt of her nose. And this is dementia. Alice may no longer be able to teach psycholinguistics at Columbia, but as her cognitive powers decline (and with them her fierce, competitive intellect), her emotions and senses are heightened. This too is dementia.

As Alice says in a pivotal scene in which she delivers a speech some months after her diagnosis, "I'm not suffering. I'm struggling to stay connected to whom I once was".

I talk and write often enough about a condition that the British Prime Minister has described as "one of the greatest enemies of humanity" to know that words are easy, action more difficult and a cure still many years off. Therefore helping those with dementia to live as well as they can is a priority requiring all of us to gain a better knowledge of what this "ticking time-bomb", this "tsunami" - to use two frequently used doom-laden images - really is.

It's not a natural part of ageing for a start and if it is a ticking time-bomb, its core elements are people not explosives. For someone of Alice's relatively young age to have it is rare, but not unheard of - 40,000 people under 65 have it in the UK, while in the US that number is 200,000.

Yet until recently we've tended to shy away from talking about dementia until a loved one is affected. I say this as someone who did just that. Before my Mum was diagnosed with the condition a decade before she died I knew virtually nothing about it, and didn't want to. I wish I had.

If Julianne Moore bags the Oscar for her fearless portrayal of Alice, more of us will go to see the film, more of us will come away with a greater understanding of dementia, and the winner will be not just a great American actress worthy of the statue in her own right, but a global population affected by a condition as pernicious as it's indiscriminate.

Pippa Kelly has her own blog at pippakelly.co.uk