Looking Closer’s Film Forum: “Away from Her”

I’m eager to see Sarah Polley‘s directorial debut, Away from Her, because it is reported to include a brilliant performance by Julie Christie. But most of all, I want to see it for its subject. How often do filmmakers give moviegoers the privilege of deeply and carefully considering the lives and challenges of characters older than 40?

Pshaw!! say the moviegoers, rushing out to keep Disturbia and Delta Farce in the top five at the box office.

Oh well… Sarah Polley has never been one to pander to childish audiences. Polley, who charmed me when she was just a kid in Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, is giving us an opportunity to examine experiences rarely portrayed on the big screen… experiences that many of us will eventually share, either in our own lives or the lives of those close to us.

J.R. Jones (The Chicago Reader) writes:

The movie is the feature writing and directing debut of accomplished Canadian actress Sarah Polley (The Sweet Hereafter, Don’t Come Knocking, Dawn of the Dead), who, at only 28, proves remarkably attuned to the texture of a relationship that’s weathered decades.

And David Denby in The New Yorker raves,

Polley’s feature début … is a small-scale triumph that could herald a great career. In general, she works close to her actors, and is confident enough to let scenes remain ambiguous—the meanings build slowly, by accretion. But she also demonstrates an impressive feeling for the spiritual meaning of landscape, as when Fiona, on skis, finds herself isolated in the snow and, looking around at the open fields, experiences the terror of a life without signposts.

Lisa Ann Cockrel (Christianity Today) says,

Away From Her makes some missteps. The narrative jumps back and forth in time in a way that isn’t helpful. And there was a political statement about war that seemed almost comically out of place. But in the main, this movie is a moving meditation on what love looks like after it’s had more than 40 years to grow. It’s a love with deep scars, but roots that go deeper still.

Harry Forbes (CNS) calls it

…an exceptionally poignant tale about the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s disease that should resonate deeply not only with anyone who has gone through that terrible disease — or indeed been in any kind of caregiver situation — with a loved one.

Polley’s uncompromising film may bring up painful memories for some, but others will find it a well-crafted love story as much about the nature of memory as about Alzheimer’s per se, and there’s a heart-tugging conclusion.

GreenCine Daily has a stack of more reviews from impressed critics that are increasing my curiosity.

UPDATED 5/22:
Christian Hamaker (Crosswalk) says,

Away from Her, despite some disappointing choices by its characters, is a treasure—a film that shows mature individuals grappling with the twilight of lifelong relationships built on mutual understanding, trust and forgiveness. It’s a complex, lived-in drama about fractured lives.

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