Away from Her
We wouldn’t need to wear such heavy coats if we had built this house with walls.

Golden Mug

Actress (Julie Christie)

Director (Sarah Polley)
Adapted Screenplay (Sarah Polley (screenplay) Alice Munro (short story))

Theatrical Release Date: 09/11/2006 (Canada) 05/04/2007 (USA)
Director: Sarah Polley
Cast: Julie Christie, Gordon Pinsent, Olympia Dukakis, Michael Murphy, Kristen Thomson

Although I’ve just entered the fourth decade of my life, I still haven’t given too much thought to what will happen to me as I reach that point in my life when I, or a loved one would have to enter some kind of assisted living situation.

To be honest, I didn’t think I’d see my 21st birthday, let alone get this far.

In any case, one of my favorite actresses, Sarah Polley, has undertaken an ambitious directorial debut with “Away from Her”.

The story is centered on a married couple of over 40 years, Grant (Gordon Pinsent) and Fiona (Julie Christie). Fiona is slowly disappearing into the Alzheimer’s haze that people have become all too familiar with and she moves into a treatment facility, leaving Grant the only person fully aware of what’s happening in their lives.

This story is haunting, touching and melancholy all at once … so, obviously I liked it very much. :)

Pinsent and Christie are fantastic, portraying the definition of a loving couple that’s been through it all together. Their performances are layered with subtle gestures and looks, speaking volumes even when there is no dialogue.

The supporting cast was equally up to the task, of which I’d like to single out Kristen Thomsen, who plays a nurse in Fiona’s facility. So often, these characters are a cliché and one can barely separate one performance from another.

However, Thomsen’s character felt like a real person, not some contrived plot device. She had her own issues but these only surface as a reaction to another character’s insistence. You get the impression that Thomsen could actually have done this sort of work before or if I didn’t know better, that she was plucked from the job just for the film.

Adding to the layers of this film is a wonderful soundtrack and score that match the longing and pain the characters experience. It reminded me of how well married the music and the film are in “All the Real Girls”.

If I were going to nitpick, I’d draw personal dissatisfaction with Polley’s inclusion of a scene where Fiona says that she doesn’t understand how America can have forgotten about Vietnam, in reference to the war in Iraq.

I fully respect Polley’s right to speak her Canadian mind and don’t really disagree with her. However, in the context of the film, I was distracted by this scene enough to be jarred out of my suspended belief. I don’t normally want political statements inside my introspective films.

As the film deals with people in the so-called twilight of their lives, for many people in my generation, some of the topics covered in the film seem like a far off possibility. Why worry, right?

Yet, time has a way of speeding up and slapping you in the face, as the characters in this film realize all too well.

“Away from Her” paints a lovely picture of storybook love and harsh reality all mixed up into one. Many of the scenes resonated strongly with me, as I saw past relationships float in front of my eyes looking at Grant and Fiona.

Like good films can often do, the trials and tribulations of the characters are so rooted in reality that at times, you get mixed up in it all also.

I’m giving “Away from Her” a 4 out of 5 and I might not recommend this film to anyone in a long-term relationship. You might come away feeling an even stronger bond, renewing a commitment to cherish each other. Though you might also scare the living crap out of yourselves. Fun, huh?

Don’t mind me, I’m just going to pop back into the theater and watch this one again … if I had a therapist, they’d be able to put twins through Harvard on what I’d have to pay.