We welcome back guest blogger Maria Alice with her review of Still Alice: Watching a Loved One With Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s disease is an illness that affects its victim at the core of their being. Memory and different mental functions are compromised in those who develop the disease, and ultimately it changes them in profound ways. The award-winning film, Still Alice, centers on the hardships that come with early onset Alzheimer’s and how they affect the victim and the people that surround them. In Still Alice, family, friends, and caregivers experience life with a loved one who, one day, may or may not even remember who they are.
Alice Howland, played by Julianne Moore in an Oscar-worthy performance, is a linguistics professor – a true creature of words, ideas, and thoughts. After Alice encounters a period of memory loss and confusion, she is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. We follow her life as the disease gets worse and those around her start to become frustrated and lose hope. Still Alice shows the uglier and more difficult stages of Alzheimer’s as a person with it goes through stages of memory loss and personal deterioration. As the disease progresses, it begins to rob the victim of their dignity. Alice quickly loses the ability to perform daily functions and maintain personal responsibility and safety. Still Alice, still available on DTV and Google Play, vividly illustrates how one person can lose their former selves inside their mind and how their body can become a mere shell of who they once were.
In a common real world situation, Alice’s family becomes her caregivers. Her husband John (Alec Baldwin), her daughters Anna (Kate Bosworth) and Lydia (Kristen Stewart), and her son Tom (Hunter Parrish) all deal differently with the diagnosis of their loved one. The family accepts Alice’s condition in ways that reflect their situations and their levels of fear and insecurity about this genetic condition. The fact that they must react to her condition both as a loving family, caregivers and potential carriers of the trait adds a distinct layer of tension to the plot.
Directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland portray the disease and its path of deterioration with precision and empathy for all concerned. There are days when Alice seems like she’s who she was before the diagnosis and days when she cannot find herself. Repeated imagery of waves on the shore captures the incisive feeling about the nature of the disease – a thing that comes in waves with no two quite the same but with the same impact. However, it is the human resolution that stands. Alice learns to live in the moment and savor life.
Still Alice describes a painful descent from a lofty, comfortable, and productive life to one of searching for a most basic connection to the self. Alzheimer’s is a disease that robs one of past, present and future by breaking the connections with life events, time, and people. With effective use of imagery, photographic effects, and themes, Still Alice creates moods and very relatable scenes of the descent from high-powered professional existence. It follows a person who must struggle to overcome confusion in the simplest tasks and disconnection from the lives that matter so much.