This film should first and foremost come with a disclaimer, you will cry. There is no doubt in my mind that even the hardest of hearts will shed a tear at co-directors Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer (who suffers from the degenerative illness ALS) adaption of Still Alice, based on the novel of the same name. It shines a light on something that affects a lot of people across the world, and it is an incredible study of the human condition, warts and all.
Dr Alice Howland (Julianne Moore) is an acclaimed linguistics professor happily married to fellow doctor John (Alec Baldwin). Together they have the perfect set up with their three adult children, lawyer Anna (Kate Bosworth), soon to be doctor Tom (Hunter Parrish), and the nomadic wannabe actress Lydia (Kristen Stewart). But things take a turn for the worse when Alice starts to forget even the simplest of words, concerning considering her chosen profession. Devastatingly Alice is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, a heredity condition passed on from her father and which she may possibly pass on to her children. Shocked by this turn of events, Alice and her family struggle with the magnitude of the disease and the rapid decline of Alice’s mental and emotional state, each coping with it in their own way, albeit some better than others.
Somebody please give Julianne Moore an Oscar! She is just simply phenomenal as the lead character, and her approach is just so effortless, so shattering that you feel as though she is legitimately suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and all you want to do is give her a big ole hug. There is one particular moment in the film that is heart breaking in its accuracy that before you know it you’ve been struck down by the water works and it’s all downhill from there (perhaps this might just be me, but I’m assured it isn’t). An unexpected surprise was the perpetually unsmiling Stewart, whose turn as the youngest ‘wild child’ was nothing short of brilliant. The scenes shared with on screen mother Moore were enduringly realistic, and the little nuances (yes, she does have them!) Stewart brought to the table was a great counterpart to Moore’s increasingly disorientated character.
No one knows suffering more than someone that is living it, day in day out. Glatzer, although diagnosed with a different disease to that of his lead, has co-penned a fantastic script that’s natural and crushing progression is mainly successful because of his brutal honesty and experience. Some films with similar plots tend to head straight to cheese-ville, power ballads and all, but Still Alice encompasses all that comes with a degenerative disease and plonks it right in front of us for our viewing dis/pleasure. This is a testament to Glatzer and Westmoreland’s no holds barred writing approach, keeping all the highs and lows and presenting it in such a fashion that the familial obligation you feel to an on screen persona is wonderfully human.
Gut-wrenchingly accurate, Still Alice is probably not going to make a lot of money at the box office. And hey, that’s ok. Because this is clearly a film with a strong message, one which hits you to your core with surprising strength. Be prepared, because no film this year has needed as many tissues as this one, nor has perfected the art of the ‘simple is best’ style of filmmaking.
[youtube id=”X_bN96H_kXU” width=”620″ height=”360″]