There is yet a cure for a tragic disease such as Alzheimer’s Disease, a condition that destroys the human mind – the essence of our existence – losing piece by piece the memories that enriches our short stay on Earth, the fundamentals that support our growth as human beings, a rare circumstance for Alice Howland who deteriorates rapidly and at a young age, an unfortunate condition that has been passed on to her family’s next generation.
Still Alice remains within the world of its titular character, extended only by the resonating effect of her illness towards the other members of her family; aiming to capture the tragedy of such a disease from an intimate level. Directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland exposes the gaps felt by its victim, displaying the rapid progression of her illness, a sense of deterioration that is measured by her expanding gaps and inability to perform her activity of daily living, rather than the cliché frame of time, a journey that is definitely personal and unique to the victim. There is no doubt that Glatzer and Westmoreland aimed to emotionally touch rather than to educate, and through this we do find ourselves sympathetic and empathetic of her situation, sometimes being able to put the audience within her shoes, while other times it remains slightly distant, watching Alice’s struggles and endurance like as if through the eyes of a family member. No doubt the experience is manipulating, leaving little for the audience to be challenged with, but it was something that was clear to us right from the start and it doesn’t coat itself with artificial sentimentality to a magnitude that would have me in detest.
The filmmakers amplify her tragedy through the individual moments of struggle, highlighting Alice’s inability to navigate of what was once a familiar and comforting home, the inability to recall even the most embraced of memories, or the difficulty to re-orientate herself to the current time and place; all viewed upon with a heart-aching perspective, one that I have seen many times in my own line of work, at times it pushes you into wanting to jump into the screen just to give her a helping hand. Though expected, it also helped that the film allowed the family to display their sense of grief over the sudden illness, showing how much of their mother has been lost, a woman staring back at them with a sense of unfamiliarity, trying to hold onto as much as they can that what they are looking at is still Alice.
Julianne Moore’s great performance is one of the most challenging of her career, but unfortunately far from her most compelling of efforts, preferring her more in films like The Kids Are All Right and Boogie Nights; though I only say this when compared to those two films, as I believe her performance here was still wonderful to absorb, capturing the deteriorating condition of such a disease with a sense of respect to those who actually suffered it, clearly Moore has studied the emotional burden of such a disease, constantly at a struggle in hanging on to her cherished memories, walking on a tightrope of acceptance and maintaining her mental strength and will, almost as if hoping she could get to the other side without losing more of herself. Moore perfectly portrays the progression of being diagnosed with such a disease, initially dealing with the struggles of remembering to eventually staring into her family or onto a blank space, unstimulated to recall or to be driven by her memories, living life almost as if just born into it, and acting upon a body’s basic fundamental needs to survive.
Still Alice may be painful to watch as such a tale could only end in sorrow as it depicts an individual travelling against the trend, no longer moving along forward with society, instead forcefully travelling herself back to such a primitive state, surrounded by everyone who thrives and survives with an independent mindset or spirit. Alice now at a state of almost complete dependence, a burden to a family that still has their lives to progress forward and thrive on; Glatzer and Westmoreland holding its audience with an emotional grip, a painful and penetrative tale of a condition that many deeply hope to never suffer from, as for now there is only direction it could lead, without a cure to end the sufferings of those who desperately need it.