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Away From Her
Genre Drama
Year: 2007

Away From Her is an adaptation of Alice Munro’s short story “The Bear Came Over The Mountain” as a married couple in their 60s find themselves separated from each other, when one is instituionalised with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a film about life, love and marriage. A retired couple living in Canada find themselves drifting toward the end of their relationship.

Grant (Pisent) is deeply in love with Fiona (Christie) and the two have built a solid marriage over 45 years. Fiona has Alzheimer’s disease and her deteriorating memory leaves them no choice but to institutionalise her. She agrees to being admitted (actually she insists) and the two are forced to spend the first month apart in order for Fiona to settle in. When Grant returns to see his love, she is not the same Fiona, and he is faced with the possibility that she may never remember him again. Away From Her is a heart-breaking story about memory loss and its affect on those close to the afflicted.

Julie Christie delivers an amazing performance as Fiona as each layer of memories switches off like a light in a house. Gordon Pisent counterbalances Christie’s performance with a thoughtful, conflicted and empathethic role as Grant. Christie’s performance garnered several film awards, including a nomination for an Oscar. Her blank expressions and dedicated yet misguided devotion show a good woman lost in a sea of new and old memories. The two leads have excellent chemistry and history when they’re together, and these strong bonds are shattered by the disconnectedness shared in the latter half. Olympia Dukakis plays the antithesis of Grant and does so with great emotional padding.

Sarah Polley makes a spectacular directorial debut and her screenplay is mature and heartfelt. This is a film that treat the subject matter with great sensitivity, and it’s hard to believe that Sarah Polley is in her 20s. Away From Her will be appreciated more by older generations, but it holds some relevance and the same gravity with younger audiences. Strong performances, sensitive direction and a script laden with real emotion make Away From Her a must-see.

The bottom line: Tearjerker.

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