Friday, May 1, 2015

Away From Her Review

It seems to be an incredibly rare thing, to deliver a cinematic love story that actually feels authentic and genuine. Over the course of each year, week after week, films are released that are supposed to convey the emotional power of love starring two gorgeous individuals between the ages of 18 - 35. In these 94 minute shit storms, we see these quirky characters deliver a clunky, predictable script with various pop songs playing and at some point during the story they will break up, only to find each other again at the end, probably in Times Square at night when it's snowing. If these films demonstrate true expectations for romance, it's no wonder why every god damn couple gets divorced.

A word like "sad" doesn't begin to do a film like Away from Her justice. Directed with a steady confidence by Sarah Polley, despite it being her first feature length picture, this is a work of brilliant, insightful devastation. Why? Because it is real. These people, these characters, these performances all feel like they could be a part of a documentary rather than a fictional narrative because the film doesn't attempt to present a glamorous, picture perfect tale of lovers.  This is what love really is, haunted minds due to past indiscretions, the uncertainty of each day due to the all too real acceptance of mortality. Two people spending their lives together is a wonderful and romantic notion, but in order to make it work you must be prepared to deal with difficult times and emotional pain. 

Gordon Pinsent plays Grant Anderson, a man who is madly in love with his wife of 44 years yet is forced to accept the unfortunate truth that her mind is slipping away due to Alzheimer's disease. Julie Christie plays Fiona, wife of Grant, a woman who learned to move past Grant's infidelity and instead of harboring anger, she feels gratitude that a man loves her so much he is willing to stick by her as the bad times start to get even worse. Their lives and their love feel remarkably real, and sadly so too does her illness. I can think of few things more heartbreaking than the idea that a person can wake up in the morning and not recognize the face they have shared a majority of their lives with. 

So touching and tender, Polley handles the material with class and realism, as if I could feel the loneliness of Grant as he comes and goes to visit his one true love despite her confusion regarding his identity. I was filled with sadness as I watched the story unfold, both because of the events taking place on screen but also because I always knew in the back of my mind that this was really happening to far too many people each and every day.

Away from Her isn't flashy or exciting, and I can't imagine wanting to revisit it over and over, but it is powerful and important. The type of film that is ingrained in your mind after only one viewing.


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