Sundance Review: Sarah Polley's "Away From Her" is Heartwarming

by | January 22, 2007 | Comments

Away From Her” is a sensitive and touching film about a couple married for forty-five years dealing with premature Alzheimer’s disease. It’s Sarah Polley‘s directorial debut at the Sundance Film Festival.

Grant and Fiona have been inseparable since marriage. Neither can imagine living without the other. Grant slowly realizes that Fiona is not well when she puts a pan in the refrigerator after dinner. Fiona starts to label her drawers, but her forgetfulness continues to get worse. A doctor tells them that Fiona is entering the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Fiona loves cross-country skiing in the slopes behind their house, but she soon forgets her way home. The couple tracks Fiona’s progression of the disease by reading medical books. When it is apparent that she cant take care of herself anymore, Fiona makes up her mind to enter an Alzheimer’s nursing facility despite Grant’s protest. Grant has to come to terms with her deteriorating condition and eventually being a complete stranger to her.

“Away From Her” is the type of film that makes you cherish your loved ones, especially while they still remember who you are. It is well-acted, especially by the two leads Julie Christie (Fiona) and Gordon Pinsent (Grant). Christie shows strength and dignity in the role of Fiona as she faces the disease head on. Pinsent’s Grant is sensitive, determined, and persistent as he endeavors to help Fiona deal with memory loss. Director Sarah Polley expertly conveys the couple’s loneliness and their need for warmth and companionship with vast, snow-filled landscapes that are also beautifully shot.

“Away From Her” debuted at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival and, so far, has garnered great reviews. The Tomatometer is currently at 100% with seven reviews, which includes raves from the Hollywood Reporter, Variety, and The Globe and Mail.