Still Alice

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Based on the 2007 bestselling novel by Lisa Genova, Still Alice tells the story of Dr. Alice Howland, a world renowned linguistics professor who is suddenly diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. She is not just a wife and mother, but a strong and beautiful woman whose identity is synonymous with her intelligence. The audience is taken on an emotional journey, watching Alice lose her identity and test the bonds of her family.

Julianne Moore gives her magnificent Oscar winning performance as Alice, perfectly capturing the progression of the illness as well as the emotional roller-coaster her character is on. Although you would never wish Alzheimer’s disease on anyone, there is something particularly cruel about it happening to Alice, a professional academic who is so well regarded for her intellect. As she begins to lose her memory, she truly begins to lose herself. The sense of helplessness is strongly portrayed by Moore, as her character is powerless to stop her mind from slipping away.

Alec Baldwin plays her husband, John Howland, who is both loving and supportive. Although he has good intentions, I found Baldwin’s performance to be lacking in emotional depth and I was unable to get emotionally involved with his character’s own struggles and journey.

The film also explores people’s perceptions of early onset Alzheimer’s itself. In one scene, Alice is visiting a nursing home to explore her care options. The home is filled with elderly patients, and the nurse automatically assumes that she is researching the home for her parents. It’s clear that Alzheimer’s disease is traditionally associated with the elderly, and Alice struggles with a lack of support from the medical community.

Out of focus camera techniques are also employed to illustrate Alice’s struggle with focusing her mind. I found this to be a very effective touch, as it gives the viewer a kind of multi-sensory insight into her disease.

Still Alice is a wonderfully poignant film not only about the importance of family and love, but also identity and what makes us who we are.

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