Some movies you know before seeing you’ll spend most of it trying to hold back tears. Still Alice is one of these.
It stars Julianne Moore in her Academy Award winning performance as Alice Howland, a 50-year-old linguistics professor who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease after experiencing episodes of memory loss.
After several sessions with a neurologist, Alice tells her husband John (Alec Baldwin) and their three adult children Anna (Kate Bosworth), Tom (Hunter Parrish) and Lydia (Kristen Stewart). While much of the film naturally centres around the reactions and aftermath of her family, it’s a story focused on Alice.
John is forced to reorganize his own career and goals as an academic researcher while each of their children all take the news differently. It’s Alice’s way of handling it that cuts the most because of her subtle nature. She cherishes her own background as a respected linguist, a mother, a wife, and takes it day by day, never really getting angry, never truly denying, but never completely accepting.
It’s the subtleness that makes Still Alice so powerful. The story could have been much heavier but seemingly chooses not to take such an easy opportunity. It’s a movie that isn’t just telling a story, it’s telling something that so many people can relate with. Through Alice, we witness how such simple memories become great challenges to obtain. The belief that we’ll always have our memories and experiences no longer stands.
Still Alice doesn’t play as an awareness campaign but it does provide a window into what is such a recognizable yet so unknown disease. At one point, Alice says “I wish I had cancer,” because of the misunderstanding she feared facing from having a disease of the mind rather than a physical one.
Beyond Moore’s great performance as Alice, Alec Baldwin digs into the role of a torn husband, unable to fully accept the condition of his wife, while Kristen Stewart pleasantly surprises as the misunderstood yet concerned youngest daughter. The shared screen-time between Moore and Stewart are among the film’s most heartbreaking moments.
Still Alice is honest and stays within the respectable bounds of sharing an experience without succumbing to falsifying a story for dramatic effect. Julianne Moore delivers a wonderful performance that highlight the importance of our memories, experiences, relationships and love.