Friday, January 16, 2015
Fifty-year-old Alice Howland (Julianne Moore) is an accomplished linguist professor at Columbia University. Her daily routines both in the classroom and at home can't seem to be any better, until she experiences disorientation while jogging and begins to forget things. Her neurologist (Stephen Kunken) diagnoses that Alice has early-onset Alzheimer's disease. The news gets worse: it's very possible that the unfortunate gene has already been passed to her three grown children: Lydia (Kristen Stewart), Anna (Kate Bosworth), and Tom (Hunter Parrish).
Refuses to give in but also facing the reality, Alice courageously struggles to control her fate as much as she is able to, while the rest of the family, including her loving husband John (Alec Baldwin), offering comforting and support.
Clearly, the writer-directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, are making a very personal film that reflects their own lives. After Richard Glatzer was diagnosed with ALS, his husband Wash Westmoreland becomes his caregiver. Perhaps that experience helps them to tell Alice's story from a unique compassionated perspective.
Giving the poignant subject matter, the film is remarkably unsentimental. Julianne Moore sensitively portrays Alice's heartbreaking transforming process from a vigorous and intelligent woman into a fragile and empty-minded shell. The constant close-up shots capture subtle changes that reveal the impact of this terrible disease.
The film places Alice at the center throughout, and lets us understand the impact of the disease from her point of view. However, that also overshadows other characters and makes them under-developed. One exception is Alice's youngest daughter, a free-spirited actor-to-be Lydia who is impressively played by Kristen Stewart. The scenes with Alice and Lydia together are always touching, sincere, and memorable.
Without any ice bucket, filmmakers Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland bring awareness about Alzheimer's by telling Alice's story in this film and roll out the red carpet for Julianne Moore to receive her Oscar next month.