Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Upsetting but Lacking: Away from Her

Away from Her
Directed by Sarah Polley
Released May 4, 2007

Popular independent actress Sarah Polley makes her feature film directorial debut with this drama about a marriage facing trouble in the form of Alzheimer's disease. While the film certainly packs an intense emotional punch, the denouement is rather lackluster and does little to supplement the source material. My reasoning is always that a film based off of real events or already written material (this comes from a short story by Alice Munro), I give little credit to the director if the film fails to rise above the material, no matter how good the original story. The cinematography is good, and shots of the main character in the snow are beautiful. The film does feature probably the most incompetent hospital staff I have ever seen, who constantly say the wrong thing, to a ridiculously obnoxious point.

Julie Christie plays Fiona, the woman diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and she does a remarkable job. I am fairly certain she will have an easy time garnering an Oscar nomination. The real revelation here is Gordon Pinsent, who portrays Fiona's husband, Grant. His reserved performance drives along the often uneven film. An entertaining minor character, a former sportscaster living in the facility with Fiona, diagnoses Grant's condition best with a memorable line: "Here comes the elevator on the left, where there is a man with a broken heart, broken into a thousand pieces." The film is not as solid as that one line, however. It surrounds a dramatic and harrowing experience but tells it in a slow way that does not really go anywhere.


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