Adapted from neuroscientist Lisa Genova’s novel, “Still Alice” takes a straightforward look at the sad, terrifying and difficult-to-bear illness of Alzheimer’s. But bear it we must.
The story of Alice Howland (the remarkable Julianne Moore), a fifty-something linguistics professor happily married to a fellow intellectual (Alec Baldwin) and the mother of three adult children (the youngest superbly played by Kristen Stewart) could be a story about any of us. After receiving a diagnosis for Alzheimer’s, Alice attempts to deal with the challenges of the disease as intelligently and courageously as possible. The results are frightening, heartbreaking, and all too humbling as we see a woman who has relied on language for her professional career and personal identity, begin to lose her grasp on what is important and who she is. Growing increasingly distant, Alice may still be Alice in body, but the Alice her family, friends, and colleagues know is slipping away, a lost soul.
Julianne Moore (who has been nominated for the fifth time for an Academy Award], manages the role of Professor Alice Howland with grace and dignity. “Still Alice” is a restrained portrait of a highly successful woman struggling to retain some sense of self, while her family copes with the gradual disappearance of the wife and mother they’d always known and loved. The family is in a vortex of ambiguous loss: a state of knowing and not knowing the extent of loss from the ravages of Alzheimer’s. Films about terminal illness can be difficult to make. The inevitability of death from disease can either be banal or melodramatic, wallowing in misery or cheap emotional manipulation. This movie is neither.
“Still Alice” is a must-see, an unforgettable film even after Alice forgets.