I love Julianne Moore. That's what comes to mind when thinking about 'Still Alice'. Having won the award for Best Actress at this year's Oscars, her portrayal of a young woman suffering from Alzheimer's disease is really quite heartbreaking. (Having said this, it's no surprise that she scooped the award; who else was she competing against?)
Adapted from the novel by neurologist Lisa Genova, Still Alice tells the story of a fifty-year old linguistics professor, who teaches at Columbia University. Simply put; she's very intelligent, has a great career and is well respected in her field. (She also has great hair and teeth, but that's sort of irrelevant). After noticing subtle signs of memory loss; not being able to recall simple words, addresses or names; she decides to consult a neurologist. After an MRI scan, Alice discovers she has early onset Alzheimer's and that it is hereditary; the odds show that she will pass on the disease to her children.
The film is funny in parts as we see Alice try to make light of her fading memory. There's a funny little exchange between her and her husband (played by Alec Baldwin) where he lectures her for forgetting that they had dinner plans. She replies sarcastically; "Well, I'm sorry. I forgot. I have dementia."
There's a specific line in the film that really stands out and hangs in the air for a few seconds like an awkward silence. It's a statement that got the film quite a lot of press and ethical tabloids debating left, right and centre. It's when Alice declares 'I wish I had Cancer.' I won't get into a heated debate about which disease is worse, I'd rather steer clear of those discussions, but it's certainly very powerful and whilst many films have explored both the physical and mental effects of Cancer, I haven't seen one before that deals with Alzheimer's in the same way.
For me, this film was a bit of a science lesson. Like many others I was quite ignorant on the subject. Alzheimer's is different to Cancer; for one thing- you forget you have it. One minute you can be in the mind-set of your eight-year-old self on the beach eating an ice-cream, the next you could be in present life, talking to your daughter as though you've never seen her face before. Suffering from Alzheimer's means losing your entire identity; your intelligence, your memories, your entire being. Like any illness it's extremely heartbreaking for all involved. As Alice describes it, her life is learning how to 'master the art of losing.'
If you ask me, Still Alice ended too abruptly. When the film came to end I was expecting another scene to follow. It felt as though it wasn't entirely finished. I wasn't ready to stop crying, I wasn't ready for the lights to come on and I certainly wasn't ready to be disturbed by the guy collecting the pieces of strewn popcorn across the floor.
Another negative note to add; Kristen Stewart who (ironically) plays Alice's actress daughter, really cannot act. As much as I admire her face, and her much too public battle with her sexuality, she is a terrible actor. She has this annoying habit of biting her lip after every alternate sentence. She flicks her hair from side to side for no apparent reason, and she does this thing where she inhales for what seems for forever before pretending she hasn't rehearsed her lines a million times and reciting them at an alarming pace. She always seems to look paned, like something is really troubling her. Similar to her character in Twilight; she's got that permanent look of being sexually frustrated. Except, there are no vampires in this film.
Sadly, Stewart seems to be suffering from an acute bout of Hugh Grant Syndrome.
A note of warning; you'll probably cry. I did. I'd advise that you don't go and see it alone or on a day where you're feeling a bit scatty and...forgetful. You might get yourself into a bit of a panic.