Alice is fifty years old, in her prime and has just been diagnosed with young onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland are clearly keen to point out that Alice (a subtle and beautifully nuanced performance by the evergreen Julianne Moore), is the healthy, clean living, intellectual type; an habitual jogger with filtered water in the fridge and a penchant for online word puzzles; even her chief indulgence is nothing more than frozen yoghurt with a sprinkling of blueberries and coconut, so the fact that her particular type of Alzheimer’s disease is genetic / familial, almost renders her well-intentioned choice of healthy lifestyle, inconsequential.
Alzheimer’s disease, needless to say, is a cruel, destructive disease that seemingly robs everyone of everything.
In a stirring speech, Alice connects Alzheimer’s with the notion of loss and the fact that, much like her lauded, professional linguistic expertise, she’s now resigned to becoming an expert in loss too.
There are many, directly or indirectly that have been affected by the degenerative effects of Alzheimer’s. The gradual decline in cognitive function is tackled here both accurately and sympathetically. ‘Still Alice’ however is an engaging story in its own right and resists the temptation to become a medical case study of sorts.
The effects of the disease upon Alice are predictably heartbreaking, but it’s the film’s focus on Alice’s family and the way that they must deal with this monumental shake up in their lives, that really adds depth. Husband John (Alec Baldwin), struggles to make the transition from Alice, his soulmate and lover, to Alice, his patient and the object of his guilty, reluctant pity, whereas most of the children, whilst taking the news hard, push on with their busy existences.
Tellingly, it’s youngest daughter and aspiring actress, Lydia, the one that Alice has pleaded with (to no avail) to finish college in the name of life security and stability, that seems to connect on the deepest, most soulful and understanding of levels, demonstrating a depth of maturity and dependability when it’s really needed.
There are no dramatic twists and turns here. Rightly or wrongly (and I’ve heard grumbles of discontent from some for ‘overly sanitising’ the subject matter), the film does not choose to deal with the latter stages of this most cruel of diseases. Instead, we have a very sad, very poignant, yet at times heart-warming piece that truly reaches inside us and demands that the disparate twin emotions of fear and empathy sit up and pay full attention.
Much like The Theory Of Everything, there’s very little more affecting than a film that induces a sense of melancholy, whilst simultaneously reviving the appreciation we so often take for granted, of our own lives, our health and the health and well being of those that we love.
Still Alice – a tragic, yet at times beautiful meditation on the notion of family and the importance of an all-enduring, all-conquering and merciful love.