Directed by the wonderful Sarah Polley, and starring the never-more wonderful Julie Christie (in a role she was Oscar-nominated for), Away From Her tells the tale of a small tragedy – a long-married couple being torn apart by the cruelty and reality of Alzheimer’s disease.
Full of resigned sadness and long-lost dreams of another life, Away From Her tells the tale of retirees Grant (Gordon Pinsent) and Fiona (Christie), who seem to live a charmed life – they have a lovely cabin in the Canadian wilderness and spend their days reading, skiing, cooking and enjoying their autumnal years together. Until Christie’s memory loss becomes more acute – and she’s diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s.
Grant (who, it turns out, was a bit of a ladies’ man in his younger years) then has to suffer not only the loss of his wife’s memory but also losing her from his life – she’s moved into a nursing home when he’s unable to look after her any longer. Cue Fiona moving away from her husband both metaphorically and literally – and Grant having to face, ironically, the memories that this separation returns to him.
It’s beautifully shot – the Canadian landscapes are stunning, as cruel in winter as the disease that’s ravaging Fiona’s whip-smart brain – and Polley manages to reveal the layers of emotions and connections in our relationships, which can be so brutally removed in an instant. At the end, all we have are those we are close to, and Alzheimer’s snatches even this from our grasp. A small tragedy, then – but one that says so much about who we are when we’re with those closest to us. Touching and true.