Away From Her


Directed by: Sarah Polley
Written by:Sarah Polley
Starring: Julie Christie, Gordon Pinsent, Olympia Dukakis, Michael Murphy, Wendy Crewson, Kirsten Thomson
Released: October 4, 2007
Grade: A-

Grant (Pinsent) and Fiona (Christie) have been married for almost half a century.  They’ve always thought that they’d be together until the very end.  It will not be the case however as Fiona’s is showing signs of having Alzheimer’s Disease.  Her short-term memory is failing and Grant is becoming increasingly concerned.

A doctor strongly suggested that Fiona be put into an aged care facility.  There, she will be able to get the increased level of care which is required by someone in Fiona’s condition.  It’s perhaps the hardest decision that Grant has ever had to make in his life.  He knows that once she is admitted, it’s very unlikely that she will ever return home.

Fiona too understands the situation.  She tells Grant that he has to let go and put her in the home.  She knows it’s the right thing to do and she doesn’t want to be a burden for the rest of his life.  The decision is made.  After 44 years together, Grant and Fiona will now live their lives apart.

Grant regularly visits Fiona at the hospital but as expected, her memories continue to fade.  The only thing that seems to give her pleasure is the company of a wheelchair-bound mute (Murphy) who also lives at the home.  Grant is somewhat jealous of the attention that Fiona gives this other man.

To help deal with the situation, Grant develops a friendship with a young nurse named Kristy (Thomson).  He expresses his emotions and she does his best to comfort him.  As a nurse at the home, it’s a situation that Kristy has seen all too frequently.  It’s not easy to see a loved one slip slowly away.

Away From Her is a love story above anything else.  The film doesn’t dwell on the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease or any possible cures or experimental medial treatments.  It’s the simple tale of two people who have realised that their time together is coming to an end.

It has been nicely told by 28-year-old writer-director Sarah Polley.  Polley has been acting since she was a child and has starred in some of my all time favourite films including The Sweet Hereafter (my favourite film of 1998) and Go.  Having been directed by the likes of Atom Egoyan, Doug Liman and David Cronenberg, it seems Polley has learned a great deal.  This is the first major film she has directed and it has been well received at film festivals across the globe.  It cost just $3.4m to produce.

The reason this film will touch audiences is because of the performances of its two stars – Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent.  Few words are shared between them but you’ll understand their connection by looking at their actions and emotions.  Christie is tipped to earn an Academy Award nomination early next year for her role (she won an Oscar back in 1965 for Darling).

There are a few elements to the story that I didn’t understand (such as why the home wouldn’t allow Grant to visit Fiona in the first 30 days) but I still enjoyed Away From Her.  I think a lot of other people will too.