“Still Alice” Review

Julianne Moore gives us a thought-provoking insight into life, family, dependence and fate

What must have happened to you if you would prefer to have cancer instead of your diagnosed illness? Alice Howland, played convincingly by Julianne Moore, receives the unexpected diagnosis of Alzheimer’s shortly after her 50th birthday. Alice’s world as a successful professor of linguistics seems to fall apart and change forever.

The film, which is based on the novel of the same name written by Lisa Genova, an American neuroscientist and author, introduces the audience to Alice’s world. Alice, a famous linguist and lecturer at Columbia University in New York, is celebrating her 50th birthday with her family. She is a mother of three grown up children and has a husband who is also a successful scientist at Columbia University. At first it is just a missing word in a guest lecture, but then Alice loses her orientation while she is jogging and panics.  After this incident she decides to see a doctor who gives her the fatal diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. But it is not just Alzheimer’s. It is a special congenital form of the illness. So it is not just Alice fighting the disease, but sooner or later at least one of her children will probably have to deal with this illness, too.

The story of the film is kept simple, straight and the end is inevitable. But that, and a Julianne Moore who gives her role so much authenticity, depth and reality that you just can watch and stare and maybe also cry for a woman whose life was all about words, expression, communication and linguistics and who is now stuttering, searching for words and forgetting her knowledge a little bit more every day, is all this film needs.

But not just Julianne Moore plays her role convincingly. Alec Baldwin, as the faithful and loyal husband, is also strong in his role. In the course of the film he shifts from the supporting loving husband to a man who is also suffering because of his wife’s disease who escapes with feelings of guilt into his work, leaving his wife to their youngest daughter, played by Kristin Stewart, who is a more or less successful actress. Her older siblings, played by Kate Bosworth and Hunter Parrish, are both preoccupied with their careers and symbolize a great contrast to Kristin Stewart.

The film is directed by the duo Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland who keep their cameras on Julianne Moore for nearly 100 minutes to capture every moment of Alice Howland’s development from an independent, strong woman to a fragile, helpless character, a shadow of her former self. This is oppressive on the one hand but at the same time also fascinating. Seeing a woman who was all about words and communication becoming disoriented, not recognizing her own daughter anymore and wetting herself, experiencing Alice’s anger, desperation but also fighting spirit and courage is what the film makes so special. The title of the film is thought-provoking: “Still Alice”. Is Alice still Alice or has she gone and just left a piece of herself behind? A question everyone has to answer by themselves, the film gives no clear response.

“Still Alice” is not an easy-going entertaining film for everyone, but a film which encourages one to think and reflect on one’s own life. The film lives through the talented Julianne Moore, who received her first Oscar for her role as Alice Howland, which she absolutely deserves. All in all ”Still Alice“ is a film well worth seeing with a clear storyline, deep and serious themes and a convincing cast crowned by Julianne Moore.

Anna-Lena Stamer

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