Still Alice (2014): The Spiral of Alzheimers

Posted: February 16, 2015 in Drama
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still_aliceAs a well-renowned professor of linguistics, everything seems to be going well for Alice Howland and her family on her 50th birthday. Following the celebration, she begins to find herself forgetting little things here and there, but an episode where she loses herself on the Columbia campus while out on a run stirs her up even more. She sees a neurologist to get a series of tests and learns that she has early-onset Alzheimers. With her and the family devastated by the news, they try everything they can to stave off the symptoms of the disease and maintain as normal a life for her as possible. While the diagnosis is unclear, she begins to get frustrated by the significant changes it has on her life and her family lives through the struggle with her as she continues to spiral downward with a reducing ability to care for herself.

Review: Julianne Moore (Alice) truly flourished in this role. With her character falling deeper and deeper into the symptoms of Alzheimers, she was able to bring out the emotional trauma, fear, aloofness, and fading sense of being that was so impactful to the story. At the start, she was slightly concerned but brushed off the few brief moments of memory loss. At the moment she lost her way on campus, the fear set in and forced her to seek answers. As the symptoms continued to take effect and she remained lucid enough to recognize what was happening, she more frequently became frustrated and angry at that sense of loss of everything that made her who she was. She was able to draw out a significant sense of compassion for her situation and sadness for how she continued to progress.

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While the film mostly focused on Alice, the effects on the family were also explored in great detail. For her husband John (Alec Baldwin), the challenge first brought a struggle between compassion and frustration, as he wanted to give her independence but feared that she could no longer handle her deteriorating situation. Eventually, his future was starting to conflict with his desire to give Alice as peaceful a life as possible. Anna (Kate Bosworth), her daughter, showed her concern and devastation for the diagnosis, but she also played a more hands-off role in the decision-making. It may have been easier for her to detach from the difficult choices and care for her mother or it was too hard to be so close to it considering the genetic nature of the disease. Lydia (Kristen Stewart), her other daughter, was much more involved and engaged. While she was struggling to live up to the family’s expectations of more traditional professions, she also allowed herself to immerse herself in caring for her mother. She maintained intrigue for her mother’s experience and compassion for her sadness losing her mind.

The film really invoked some strong emotions and presented a palpable view of the experience of Alzheimers. What makes this story even more tragic is the fact that she was so young when she was diagnosed. While hers is not the only story, her decent into darkness and despair was just too compelling.

Dan’s Rating: 4.5/5

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