It begins simply enough: an inability to find the right word. It’s a common word, one you’ve used all your life, and then suddenly that connection between what’s on the tip of your tongue and your ability to say it is lost. Then the people closest to you take note that you’re repeating yourself. The next steps come more frequently. You’re lost in surroundings you’ve known all your life. You confuse your daughter for a long-lost sister.
Such is the case with dementia and the challenges that come with the onslaught of Alzheimer’s. “Still Alice” takes an intense look not only at the shattered life of the person dealing with the disease, but also at the people closest to the victim. Julianne Moore delivers Alice’s story with grace perfected, turning in an Academy Award winning performance. If you missed it at the theater, don’t despair. It’s just recently been released online.
Alice Howland, at age 50, is reaping her rewards. She’s a renowned scholar of linguistics teaching at Columbia University. Her adoring husband John (Alec Baldwin) dotes on her. Even though, to Alice’s dismay, her youngest daughter Lydia (Kristen Stewart) has chosen an acting career over college, her three grown children are on trajectories to success.
Then shortly after Alice’s 50th birthday, she’s diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. The deterioration of all that Alice is and all she knows comes slowly at first, sneaking in when she least expects it. Her journey affects the whole family, and each in turn must find a way to cope.
Still in the early stages, but facing the beginning of the end, Alice receives news that adds a cruel twist to her horror. She learns that her disease can be genetically passed to her children. Two of the three undergo testing to find out if they have the gene. Lydia refuses to know.
With brilliant acting from a cast that finds perfect rhythm in its search for balance, “Still Alice” capitalizes on a well-refined script and flawless direction. The orchestration of it all is a rare and beautiful gift to anyone who suffers from the disease either personally or as part of the collateral damage.
“Still Alice” reminds us that in the midst of chaos and confusion, pain and loss, the stabilizing force will be love. And that’s all anybody can ask for.
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, and brief language including a sexual reference.
Marilyn Robitaille has been writing film reviews for the Empire-Tribune since 1999.