“On bad days,” says Alice Howland (Julianne Moore), “I feel as if I can’t find myself. I see the words hanging in front of me, but I can’t reach them. And I don’t know what I’m going to lose next.” She’s Early-onset Alzheimer’s, talking to adult daughter Lydia (Kristen Stewart). That’s the story in this moving family drama, whose ending will come with little surprise.
Can Alice and her family’s love for one another survive? How many sacrifices will it require? For answers, see this quietly moving film.
“Still Alice” is Julianne Moore’s film. She’s 50-year old Columbia University linguistics professor Alice Howland, virtually always on-screen, tracking her character’s inevitable loss of knowledge, memories and sense of self. “I wish I had cancer,” she says, “I wouldn’t feel so ashamed.” Moore’s is a harrowing, but underplayed performance, subtle and nuanced, worthy of the many awards she has received. Alec Baldwin as physician husband John and Kristen Stewart as aspiring-actress daughter Lydia provide excellent support. He, seeking to balance his own career aspirations and Alice’s decline; Lydia, finding herself as an actress despite her mother’s doubts and, more and more difficult, sacrificing to offer her mother a daughter’s loving support.
Others in the skillful cast include, as older Howland siblings Anna and Tom, Kate Bosworth and Hunter Parrish. Shane McRae is Anna’s husband Charlie. Stephen Kunken is neurologist Dr. Benjamin.
“Still Alice” is a family drama – the compassionate and difficult tale of mental and physical loss – told from the title character’s point of view. Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland wrote and directed, from Lisa Genova’s novel, and all deserve praise for this consistently serious-minded film about a terrifying subject. With few flashbacks – brief, grainy family photos and films – and little camera work that calls attention to itself – two out-of-focus shots suggesting Alice’s growing disorientation, the film is straight-forward story-telling, beginning with Alice celebrating her 50th birthday with her family to her inevitable decline. John’s toast to his wife stays with us: “To the most beautiful and intelligent woman I’ve known in my entire life,” he says. It’s a story about love in circumstances where it is difficult to sustain. “To live in the moment is all I want to do,” Alice says. “I want to master the art of losing.”
Rated PG-13 for mature themes, brief language and sexual references, “Still Alice” runs 101 minutes. A family film for adults and older teens, there’s plenty to talk about afterwards.
Gentle, moving, smart, and tough,
“Still Alice” hits its mark;
Julianne Moore is Alice,
Performing from the heart.