Words by Gabby Willis
Still Alice, based on the novel by Lisa Genova and co-directed by the late Richard Glatzer and his partner Wash Westmoreland, follows the story of Alice Howland (Julianne Moore) as her life deteriorates after being diagnosed with familial early-onset Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 50. Alice is forced to come to terms with the words that hang in front of her, just out of reach, and the missing pieces of her life after her successful career as a linguistics professor.
Unfortunately, the plot is perhaps too focused on Alice – this sadly eliminated the potential for much character development in other members of the Howland family, and lacks focus on their experience and how they themselves came to terms with it. Alice’s Husband (Alec Baldwin) often seemed cold through Baldwin’s wooden acting, and whilst showing a range of almost convincing emotions, her youngest daughter (Kristen Stewart) lacked a certain something, although that may have been intended to come across as teenage angst. All of this said, however, it is easy to acknowledge why Moore won the best lead actress Oscar for her portrayal of Alice, becoming the 5th recipient of the award in a row to have played a character with a mental health illness. Moore’s transformation throughout the film is unfaultable, although perhaps with a few changes in the direction and plot structure of the film, she may have shone to a higher potential. At times scenes seemed far too long, unexplained, and repetitive, whilst others were too short and missed potentially important details that may have solved some of the aforementioned flaws – perhaps this was a metaphor for the nature of the disease that did not come across quite as intended.
The sad news came on the day of writing this review of the passing of co-director Richard Glatzer, who had been facing his own battle with Motor Neurone Disease since 2011. Glatzer should be seen as an inspiration, for creating a film about such an epic struggle whilst facing his own. Glatzer was unable to attend the Academy Awards ceremony where Moore paid tribute to him as he lay watching the awards in a hospital room. Today, Moore simply tweeted, “I love you Richard”.
The Alzheimer’s society has praised the film, calling it “beautiful, frightening, and powerful”, whilst featuring the women behind the film in their campaign “our brains”, which aims to promote awareness and raise funds for research into Alzheimer’s in women. Perhaps the release of this poignant film, and the recent news of the death of acclaimed author Terry Pratchett (a long time sufferer of the disease) will lead to new wins in Alzheimer’s awareness, and help drive it into the forefront of medical research.