Alzheimer’s is a truly awful and horrific disease which unfortunately has no cure. In film, every now and then you’ll witness characters struggling with the disease, but it’s rarely ever the main focus. Or sometimes, the focus is on the disease later down the road. It’s not often that we watch the beginning effects of it and observe it as it grows, affecting the person whose life we’re witnessing. Personally, I know a very great family friend affected by this disease and I believe this film adequately depicts just how it affects everyone.
Dr. Alice Howland (Julliane Moore) is one of the most renowned Linguistics professors and her works have inspired many students all over the world. She leads a happy life in which she teaches and delivers lectures by day and spends time with her husband, John (Alec Baldwin) by night. Her daughter Anna (Kate Bosworth) lives nearby with her boyfriend and her son Tom (Hunter Parrish) isn’t too far away either. Her other daughter, Lydia (Kristen Stewart), is off chasing the dream of becoming an actress in Los Angeles. Recently, Alice has been having issues when it comes to memorization and finding the right words.
After a trip to the doctors, it’s clear that something is wrong with Alice. She’s becoming forgetful and everyone is beginning to notice it. A test determines that she’s in the first stage of Alzheimer’s and that completely crushes Alice. Everything she has worked so hard to attain is beginning to fade away with her memory and there’s nothing she can do about it. Her family is there for her support, but Alice is determined to fight as long as she can, attempting to prolong her memory. Although Alice is the one with the diseases, she’s not the only one being affected by it. Her family does all they can, but it’s hard for them to watch her struggle as well.
Still Alice is a heartbreaking look at an incredibly strong woman’s fight against Alzheimer’s and how she and her family are affected. This type of film isn’t totally new, but the story and it’s exploration of this linguistics professor is refreshing angle which really gives us a closer look into the how people perceive the disease. With impressive performances, careful direction, and a script that will bring you to tears, this film leaves a lasting impression and solidifies itself as one of the more honest films this year. Nearly everyone has some experience with the disease and this is a beautiful and truthful look into how it affects everything.
Julianne Moore, a powerhouse of an actress who is long overdue for an Academy Award, completely carries this film with an emotionally fueled performance that’s sure to solidify her as this year’s best actress. Adding immense detail into her character and visually and verbally expressing her frustration with the disease, Moore commands the screen and tugs at the strings of your heart. The pauses, moments of forgetfulness, and the moments of sheer panic are saddening and she really put her heart and soul into this performance. The subtle nuances within her character are what make things complete and you feel for this character, as if you’ve known her your entire life.
While acting in the shadow of the great Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart still manages to make her mark on this film with one of her more genuine performances. Stewart’s rocky relationship with her mother adds great familial tension and watching her change her life for her mother really stands out. Alec Baldwin doesn’t get nearly enough time as he should, but he too makes the most of it and provides us with a touching performance that balances Moore’s. Baldwin’s more emotional side is on display and how he handles everything seems completely natural. His frustrations are completely justified, but he also cares for her in a loving manner and it’s often very sweet to watch.
Much of the film’s focus centers on the fact that Moore’s character is a renowned linguistics professor. To her, words are everything and they explain and explore everything we know in life. Watching her struggle is hard enough, but her loss of words and the ability to memorize the speeches she loves to deliver is truly demonstrative of how horrible this disease is and how it affects people differently. Her family, used to her verbose vocabulary, notices certain changes in her behavior and try to help her along the way. Memorization tricks and tasks only work so well and for so long because the disease can grow slowly, or rapidly. The shifting of focus to individual family members allows us their point-of-view and everything really builds up the emotional response to this film.
After a while, Still Alice does start to lose its steam, particularly when things get worse and worse. The film and its subject matter is interesting, but it doesn’t always effectively keep the audiences interest and moves fairly slow. The film feels longer than 99 minutes, but I also believe that it would have benefited from 15 more minutes in the end to wrap things up in a better way. Although things move quickly with the disease, some more time spent with its effects and the family would have really made this film sensational. The film should be primarily about Moore, but with the inclusion of her family and their close involvement, they should have had more time to make their impact as a whole. There are also a few anticlimactic moments which felt inorganic and almost forced.
Still Alice serves as both a touching drama about family and perseverance, as well as a testament to Julianne Moore’s acting abilities. Moore demonstrates why she’s one of the most underrated actresses today and her chances of winning the Academy Award for Best Actress are almost certain. Still Alice touches on how others are affected by such an awful disease, but there’s not enough time spent with certain family members to fully understand just how they’re being affected. This is one of those rare times when you wish the film was longer, but for what we get this film is still pretty great.
Still Alice Trailer