MIFF: Away From Her (Canada)

Away From Her

Julie Christie returns to the big screen and, her beauty as crystalline and mesmerising as ever, she remains a luminous presence. We are introduced to an apparently blissful retired family life. The lighting is warm, the location bucolic, the cross-country skis are new, the hair silver but lush, the couture that catalogue-perfect ensemble of earth-coloured, deconstructed natural fibres, he reads Ondaatje to her on the sofa, they have friends for dinner with red wine and laughter. But when Fiona (Christie) puts the frying pan in the freezer this simplest of domestic trifles suggests that not all is well. As Alzheimer’s begins to take hold of Fiona, we see how it untethers her from the world she has shared with her husband Grant (Gordon Pinsent) and leaves her adrift in a vague sensory sea where her mind is unable to connect the signified with the signifier. The film, lovingly crafted by director Sarah Polley, unfolds this arduous decline of consciousness as much to reveal the underlying fractures of the marriage as to illustrate an illness. Grant begins to futilely wonder/hope that this is perhaps all a charade on Fiona’s part—a way to get back at him for past transgressions—and the film flirts with the ambiguity of Fiona’s involvement in her own unravelling. In brief moments of lucidity, she seems almost to be begging Grant not to try to drag her out of the blissful coma of unconscious waking that she has fallen into, as though fighting against the Alzheimer’s and the recognition of her own incapacities that this entails is more horrible than simply giving into the blur of unthought. What shines through more than anything in the film are the touchingly open performances from both Christie and Pinsent. Former head of VCA Drama, Lindy Davies, was performance consultant on the film and with Sarah Polley, an actor herself, they have extracted finely-wrought and truthful characters who are trying to deal with their own mistakes, their own mental failings and their own mortality.

Screening at Regent: Sunday 5th of August, 3:00 PM