Although much of her fledgling career has been spent in front of the camera, Sarah Polley emerges as a serious writing-directing talent with Away From Her. It's a low-key yet powerful and uplifting story of love renewed amid the ravages of old age. Julie Christie, even in her sultry sex bomb days, has rarely been more radiant than as a 60-something woman whose memories of life with her husband (Gordon Pinsent) are gradually being eroded by Alzheimer's disease.
After putting the frying pan in the fridge once too often, Fiona (Christie) convinces husband Grant (Pinsent) to check her into a care home. She doesn't want to risk his resentment, but after a month at the facility Fiona does exactly that, forming an attachment to fellow patient Aubrey (Michael Murphy). Added to this mild-mannered tug of love is Grant's guilt over a past dalliance and the question of whether Fiona is secretly punishing him for that.
"SOULFUL & WONDERFULLY ACTED"
Polley brings hope, poetry and light to a place of apparent desolation. There are haunting flashes of the past while, in the present, a dramatic snowy landscape hints at the barren space growing between the couple. Then she frequently undercuts this mood of whimsical melancholy with outrageous humour. So one patient (Thomas Hauff) is an ex-sports pundit who commentates on everything from a walk down the hall to a wistful glance! It's a cannily composed story, soulful and wonderfully acted. Pinsent is a sturdy anchor and Olympia Dukakis adds a touch of big city wit as Aubrey's world-weary wife. It's the nuances in Christie's performance, however, that really linger in the mind. Outstanding.
Away From Her is released in UK cinemas on Friday 27th April 2007.