Still Alice – Film Review

Julianne Moore sweeps the awards circuit and sweeps reviewer Simon Walton off his feet with a performance to remember in a film about forgetting.

The Cameo Edinburgh, a cinema like you remember cinemas – right down to queuing round the block.  On this occasion, for admission to a special post-Oscars screening of Still Alice.  So, the fact that 200 people had turned up at 11am, with wintry showers always ready to provide a supporting feature, did suggest we’d come to the right place at the right time.  Being that the subject matter of the main event – dementia – there was no shortage of quips along the lines “have they forgotten they’re opening this morning.”  Somewhat late, somewhat chilled, somewhat unbowed, the doors opened and the dutiful crowd dutifully filed in.

Some early reviews of Still Alice have been less than complimentary.  True, it won’t appeal to the blockbuster brigade – the height of the action involves a cupboard door and a soiled pair of joggers – but to savour there’s a tour de force performance from Julianne Moore.  Playing the titular lead, she’s the heartbreakingly unfortunate linguistics professor, suffering the ultimate irony of an aphasiac decent into uncommunicative early onset Alzheimer’s.

Despite her best efforts, the full ignominy of the disease overtakes Alice – eating away at her  career, her social life, her dignity and, ultimately her family.  Alec Baldwin, fresh from seven years of 30 Rock, regains his serious acting credentials as the compassionate husband straining with the battle on three fronts of family, career and disease.  How the family copes, as their relationships are irrevocably altered by their matriarch’s growing bewilderment is perhaps best portrayed by Kristen Stewart’s prodigal daughter character Lydia.  Were the part bigger, the young Twilight favourite might have been in the running for an Oscar herself as a supporting actor.

The sting in the tail – no, make that a coup de gras – scythes down Alice in her last hope, and graphically demonstrates the true collateral cost.  As heartbreaking as the Fault in Our Stars, if this had been on the small screen, an advisory would be captioned up, inviting those affected by the issues raised to seek out a relevant helpline.  A quiet audience as the end credits role, and no jokes about remembering where the car was parked.

Still Alice (12A, 101 mins)

On general release from Friday 6 March

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