Media Maven: “Away From Her” Movie Review

Media Maven: “Away From Her” Movie Review

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"Away From Her"
Julie Christie, Gordon Pinset, Olympia Dukakis Michael Murphy

The Sundance Film Festival just ain’t what it used to be. In the beginning, with the purest of intentions the festival was to be a venue to showcase independent films from newcomers and unexposed talent. Although each year Sundance provides us with eclectic movie choices and gems like last year’s Little Miss Sunshine; the festival has been infiltrated with Hollywood influences and big budgets.

Case in point, the film "Away From Her", which is debuting on May 18, is an example of films selling out to Hollywood. "Away From Her" is a story about a couple who faces the decline of a spouse succumbing to Alzheimer’s. It is based on a short story by Alice Munro (The Bear Went Over the Mountain).

The effervescent Julie Christie plays the victim of this incurable affliction that expropriates one’s ability to retain memories of relationships and the coherence of daily living. But it is Canadian actor Gordon Pinsent, playing Christie’s husband who dominates the screen in the telling of passion stolen and a life misplaced far too soon.

This film is a sanitary, white-washed romantic version of love lost. Love lost not by choice but by a fate that is contrary and unpredictable. None of us are immune to the harsh realities of tragedy. Yet, this film promotes an idyllic love story placed in the beautiful Canadian outdoors. The expanse of this couple’s home and land allows for captivating moments of bittersweet disorientation by Christie. The accompanying music is pitch perfect.

There are no complaints with anyone of the key players in this film. Julie Christie has such a range of expression and beauty. Gordon Pinsent more than aptly portrays a heartbreaking sense of loss. Olympia Dukakis as a caretaker in a marriage of similar circumstance is impeccable. Michael Murphy as her husband whose days at the nursing home are spent confined to a wheelchair in a permanent display of dementia is credible.

Yet, the film rings as a romanticized Hollywood version of Alzheimer’s through the eyes of a lover left behind. Many people have lost loved ones to the insidious effects of Alzheimer’s. The sense of powerlessness and decline in people who espoused a zest for life is devastating for those left to witness this harsh reality. Although easy to relate to the sense of loss in this movie it still felt contrived in presenting Hollywood’s beautiful people playing coiffed caricatures. If only real life would be that harmonious and sanitary. Not enough dementia and human anger was portrayed to be convinced of the true sacrifice of losing one’s wife/father/sister/cousin/friend to Alzheimer’s. It was beautifully done, but cloaked more in romance than in reality.

Rating: Three Chic Stars

Jan’s Movie Rating System:
5 – Top notch entertainment
4 – Compelling, Heartwarming, Thrilling, Comical
3 – The a) story b) actors c) special effects saved/made this movie.
2 – If you are bored watch it, or wait for DVD
1 – Don’t bother. Too morose, too violent, too blasé, an enigma.