Most of us who live in Planet Cyberspace (i.e. – all of us) will probably be aware that Julianne Moore aced award ceremonies left, right and centre this season in the Best Actress categories. But even by the time The Oscars hit, few of us here in the UK knew anything at all of Still Alice, Hollywood’s answer to Brit deterioration-through-disease epic, The Theory of Everything. Expanding on everyone’s new favourite sub-genre, Still Alice is the story of one woman’s struggle with a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and it’s forecast to hit English cinemas this Friday.
On the surface, Still Alice could be read as a film of sad, sad ironies. Like a Linguistics Professor losing her ability to weave words, or Kristen Stewart cast as a miserable wannabe actress. But beneath the skin, it’s as haunting and daunting as many a good psychological horror. And this is a realist drama.
Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, the guys behind 2006 critics’ favourite, Quinceañera, shoot the movie with such an eerie minimalism that it never comes across as soppy or sentimental. Whilst the likes of Alec Baldwin and Kate Bosworth are well cast as the kind of family folk viewers can, and actually want, to care about. In fact, throughout its entire running time, Still Alice is a chillingly honest, profoundly humanist film.
Our Writer-Directors offer us a tender look at an important, oft ignored topic and Moore gives us a tortured performance that touches on familial fears inside all of us. The film emphasises distraction and obsessive compulsion as both coping measures and as metaphors, and Moore’s Alice goes from suffering in silence to struggling for support in a way that feels genuinely raw and real.
Anyone who’s seen Moore’s recent turn as a demonic Hollywood diva in David Cronenberg satire, Maps to The Stars will be under the impression that her range couldn’t extend any further, but they’d be wrong. Here, we can see the torment in her heart, feel the dizziness through her eyes, and we weep at seeing such an inspirational, relatable and likeable woman lost. At times it’s difficult to believe that her character’s fictitious at all.
If there is one issue with the film, it’s this: it is very depressing. From start to finish, think more heart-wrencher than heart-warmer. But sometimes, you need somebody to force open your eyelids in order to see the light. And Alzheimer’s is as important an understated issue as ever. The movie’s last line is as apt as anything: it’s about love. And that’s love of family, love of life, love of past, and love of looking ahead. Things that we all experience, and things all delicately mirrored in this moving film.