Usually when you come out of a cinema planning how you’ll kill yourself it’s because the film you’ve just put yourself through hasn’t done a particularly good job of keeping you entertained. Here at TOTB we’ve lost count of the number of existential crises that have been brought on by that very unique feeling of having had a few hours of your life essentially stolen from you. Not wasted, no, but stolen; stolen by broken cinematic promises that leave you feeling empty and betrayed.
It’s the sort of feeling you get if you’re dumped by the person you love, or if you’ve ever seen an Adam Sandler movie.
As we all emerged from the screening of Still Alice, the entirety of the audience blinking through tears as we wondered how old we’d be when we finally needed to book our Dignitas consultation, we felt very much the same – except this time it’s exactly what they wanted. The sick bastards.
It feels somewhat redundant reviewing Still Alice when it has been in the public consciousness for so long. After all, Julianne Moore had won the Oscar for Best Actress before the film was even released in the UK, but Think Outside the Box has never shied away from being redundant.
For those of you who don’t know, Alice Howland (Moore) is a well respected Linguistics professor who, after finding herself forgetting simple things and even getting lost while jogging around the university campus where she works, is diagnosed with Early On-set Alzheimer’s Disease. From here, the narrative plays out much as you’d expect, with both Alice and her family struggling to come to terms with the rapid and debilitating effects of the condition.
The drama is quite televisual at times, however it is elevated hugely by the performances of Julianne Moore and, to lesser extents, Kristen Stewart and Alec Baldwin. Dialogue that would sound prosaic in lesser hands is brought to life by a performance that is every bit an Oscar winner. A lot credit needs to go to the directors too (the late Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland), as the framing of the shots is key in developing that sense of isolation and disorientation that our main protagonist is experiencing. During Alice’s first conversation with her neurologist the camera remains fixed on her, and it is little moments like this that help to create such a personal story.
Still Alice certainly isn’t flawless, and if it hadn’t been for Julianne Moore’s performance then it may be that we’d be seeing it in five years time on the True Movies channel. The supporting cast are barely fleshed out beyond surface details (in fairness, perhaps a deliberate mechanic to ensure the viewer is very much alone with Alice) however such is the magnitude of her portrayal that it is actually one of the most moving things you’ll see all year.
Just don’t expect to enjoy it.