This film's been getting low-key but quality press for months, making it an easy choice during a slow rental week.
Twenty-eight-year-old Canadian actress Sarah Polley (The Secret Life of Words) penned the screenplay, adapted from Alice Munro's short story "The Bear Came Over the Mountain," and directed this feature about an elderly couple's collision with Alzheimer's. Polley brilliantly brokered Julie Christie (Finding Neverland), whom she's worked with twice before, and Gordon Pinsent (The Good Shepherd) as her two aging leads.
Most reviews have appropriately praised Christie's portrayal of Fiona, a memory-lapsing woman moved to a group home, but the film is anchored by the quiet, emotional eyes of her husband, Grant (Pinsent), forced to watch as his wife slips into oblivion. Olympia Dukakis (Steel Magnolias) provides terrific additional support as the spouse of a fellow home-dweller.
Though there are more than 5 million Alzheimer's sufferers in the United States today, you need not be directly affected by the condition to understand the subject of this film. It's far more about relationships and emotions than medical diagnoses.
I would lump this title into the tear-jerker category, but it's not the type that goes for cheap sentiment. Away From Her is a beautifully filmed and deftly written look at the devastating effects of losing a loved one, either physically or mentally. It easily sits as one of the best movies to be released on DVD this year; Polley should definitely be commended for her fine feature-length directorial debut.