A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
The other day I was reflecting on the uneventful, slow and dull day that I had whilst cooped up in my dormitory room, gazing out the window and pondering my own existence. Yes, it was one of those days.
I backtracked in my mind and thought about what I ate, where I ate it, what time I awoke, what time I showered and what time I became somewhat productive. Funnily enough, I was able to recall everything I had done leading up to that particular moment.
I thought nothing of it at the time, but after watching the painfully tragic, but excellent picture that is “Still Alice”, I began to appreciate the ability of memory I still possess.
Julianne Moore gives an incredible performance as Alice Howard, a recognised linguistics professor who begins to gradually lose her memory at the cruel hands of Alzheimers disease. Diagnosed with a rare form of the crushing illness at a very early age, Alice’s journey as she learns to cope and adjust is sadly a downward slope that she can only endure rather than resist.
As the film progresses and we see her transformation over time, Moore’s stunningly ernest, resolute performance paints a profound picture of the horrors of the disease, and how it not only affects it’s subject, but those associated with them.
Her loving family, including husband John (Alec Baldwin), son Tom (Hunter Parish) and two daughters of Lydia (Kristen Stewart) and Anna (Kate Bosworth) show undying support for Alice, but their struggles are apparent and explored in equally saddening and naturalistic fashion.
Moore’s committed and crushingly honest portrayal of an Alzheimers sufferer reminds me of another performance in a similar vein. Eddie Redmayne’s encapsulation of Stephen Hawking’s slow and painful battle with the overpowering ALS disease in “The Theory of Everything” was so powerful and emotionally driven, it immediately altered your perception of who you were watching on the screen and made you believe otherwise.
What has been achieved so professionally and shockingly, is the ability to portray a gradual decline in function and ability.
As the film chronologically progresses on screen, one would assume that with each new scene, the actor or actress would simply add a little more to the performance which would create the effect of an increasingly tighter stronghold upon the character. This (as far as I believe) is not the case with most films.
Films aren’t shot chronologically, or at least entirely. There would have been several shooting days which scattered the scenes up according to schedules, locations and other variables, which in turn would have scattered the stages of the diseases for the actors. A challenge such as this is but one of the several difficulties one must cope with when shooting a pressure film, so it is an absolute credit to not just Moore, but Redmayne as well, for giving audiences a masterful, committed and emotionally-powered performance that truly transforms them.
The screenplay is sensationally written. The subtleties in the layout means the simplest of instances can have the most profound of outcomes. It’s also written to extract the largest emotional reaction from it’s audience, which only crescendos as the disease gets stronger. But what makes “Still Alice” so impressive is the contemporary edge it possesses. Based on the novel of the same name, “Still Alice” weaves in several technological aids for Alice as she slowly begins to lose everything. She relies on her computer to store videos and notes, whilst it also helps her stay in touch with Lydia as she lives elsewhere.
Her phone plays a major part in the film as it stores questions for Alice to answer on a daily basis.
Furthermore, it remembers times, dates and locations so that she doesn’t have to, which are all major advantages for her compared to someone who did not have such luxuries 30 years ago.
The technological assistances are all minor glimmers of hope for Alice, but ultimately, they act as a symbolic element that reinforces the incurable nature of Alzheimers and the inevitable, hard-hitting truths surrounding the disease. Alzheimers takes the memories, the abilities and the lives away from it’s victims, and there isn’t much we can do to stop it.
We try, we think positively, we distract ourselves and we help as much as we can, but sadly, there comes a day when we must face facts. “Still Alice” succeeds in addressing this through powerful, striking realism.
Alec Baldwin has a welcomed return to the big screen in his deeply emotional supporting role as John. He faces moments of conflict and suffering throughout a lot of the film, but his love for Alice shines through, allowing the audience to sympathise that much more with him as he slowly becomes Alice’s carer, watching the woman he loved, married and created life-long memories with slowly fade away into a shell of her former self.
Kristen Stewart is somebody I would more often than not roll my eyes at upon news of her inclusion in a film. Although her deadpan, expressionless “Twilight” face is alive and well in “Still Alice”, she shows glimpses of dedication and effort which is a big positive to take from her comparatively better performance.
“Still Alice” was a film that would have proceeded to slip under my radar if not for the enormous hype surrounding the efforts of Julianne Moore. Needless to say, she gives a truly Oscar-worthy performance as Alice and I’m so very thankful I tracked it down. |
Everybody (including Kristen Stewart) obviously has a deep connection to the story whether it be on a personal or professional level, and it shows through their dedicated performances in support of the incredible Moore.
It’s not an easy one to watch, in fact I guarantee on the right day, I would have been balling my eyes out whilst watching it. Thankfully, it didn’t quite get there for me, but it definitely possesses the power to do so. So be warned.