Sense of loss of sense

This is my review of Still Alice [DVD] [2014].

Alice is a highly regarded academic at Columbia University, celebrated for her publications, who has managed to find time to raise three children with her similarly talented husband. Her obsession with playing word games on her phone and her conspicuous inability to find a vital word during an important lecture are the first hints of the onset of “early stage Alzheimers”, all the more devastating since she is barely fifty and unusually ambitious and driven in what she still wants to achieve. The supreme irony is that her specialism is linguistics, her fascination with words and communication.

Julianne Moore deserves her Oscar in showing Alice in a succession of emotions from disbelief and rising anxiety, through fear and frustration to a kind of ultimate acceptance. The film is realistic in showing the differing reactions of her children, both to her and each other as regards how best to treat her. Her changing relationship with her husband is also convincing: he promises to be there for her, but to what extent can he be expected to give up his own intellectual activities and career prospects as she finds herself not only unable to work, but incapable of concentrating on anything – wanting only to spend her last months of lucidity with him on the beach where they enjoyed their first romance thirty years before.

This often unbearably moving film considers subtly the question of the point at which we cease to be ourselves and may reasonably have our lives organised by others to suit their priorities. The drama ends on as positive a note as can be hoped. Perhaps some of our sadness in watching it is the knowledge that some similar fate may lie in store for us, but with less loving support.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 Stars

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