A man coping with the institutionalization of his wife because of Alzheimer's disease faces an epiphany when she transfers her affections to another man, Aubrey, a wheelchair-bound mute who also is a patient at the nursing home.
Release Year: 2006
Rating: 7.6/10 (12,492 voted)
Critic's Score: 88/100
Stars: Julie Christie, Michael Murphy, Gordon Pinsent
Grant and Fiona Anderson have been married for forty-four years. Their marriage has been a generally happy and loving one although not perfect due to some indiscretions when Grant was working as a college professor. Fiona has just been admitted to Meadowlake, a long term care facility near their country home in southwestern Ontario, because her recent lapses of memory have been diagnosed as a probable case of Alzheimer's disease. She and Grant made this decision together, although a still lucid Fiona seems to have made peace with the decision and her diagnosis more so than Grant. With respect to the facility, what Grant has the most difficulty with are what he sees as the sadness associated with the facility's second floor – where the more advanced cases are housed – but most specifically the facility's policy of no visitors within the first thirty days of admission to allow the patient to adjust more easily to their new life there…
Writers: Sarah Polley, Alice Munro
Grace Lynn Kung
Sometimes you have to let go of what you can't live without.
Release Date: 27 April 2007
Filming Locations: Freeport Health Centre, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
Box Office Details
Opening Weekend: $53,267
(6 May 2007)
Did You Know?
The movie somewhat mirrored actor Gordon Pinsent's real life, when his wife, actress Charmion King, died of emphysema in January 2007, four months after "Away from Her" premiered.
When Frank, the former hockey play-by-play man, is announcing the Philadelphia Flyers-Toronto Maple Leafs game that's playing on television, at the finish of the game he gives the name of the Flyers coach as "Phil" Hitchcock; the Flyers coach in 2003 (when this movie is set) is actually named Ken Hitchcock.
I'm thinking that sometimes you just have to make the decision to be happy. Just decide. Things aren't ever what you hoped they'd be. Not ever, for anybody. The only thing that separates one kind of person from another is there are some who stay angry about it and there are some who… accept what comes their way.
Which kind of person are you?
I was pretty mad about it. But now… looking at what came my way
I think I could be the other kind of person. Quite the philosopher, huh?
A love like fresh snow underfoot . . .
I remember the last time I saw my mother. I sat on the end of her bed,
strumming guitar, and singing a song she used to sing to us as
children. I hoped she might remember it. She would probably not,
however, recognise her son. Or even speak. She had Alzheimer's.
After self-righteous 'disease of the week' movies such as Iris, it is
maybe hard to imagine a riveting, nuanced love story of depth and
imagination, one centred on loss of memory, but Away From Her succeeds
Fiona (Julie Christie) has been married to Grant for 44 years. They
have reached a stage of lifetime love based on deep knowledge of each
other and acceptance of past misdemeanours. Then Fiona's memory starts
to fail. As her Alzheimer's begins to need 24hr care, she checks in to
Meadowlake residential centre. There she not only forgets who her
husband is, but develops an affection for another patient an
affection that holds all the tenderness she used to share with her (now
Says Producer Simone Urdl, "The role of Alzheimer's in the film is a
metaphor for how memory plays out in a long term relationship: what we
chose to remember, what we choose to forget." And our ability to recall
things, as Oscar Wilde pointed out, is highly selective.
Secure in the knowledge that he has given his wife many years of
happiness, Grant glosses over his unfaithfulness in their younger days.
But Fiona's early memories stay longer, and come back to haunt him. To
bring his wife joy now, he is driven to encourage her towards that
which gives him most pain.
Away From Her takes us from frozen, luminescent mise-en-scene of the
couple's secure existence in snow-drenched, rural Canada, to the
hand-held cameras and uncertainty that hits in Meadowlake. Excerpts
from Auden's Letters From Iceland are sprinkled into the script like
shards of crystalline beauty. Julie Christie, for whom the lead role
was written, exudes dynamic good looks and the vibrancy of a young
woman, bathed in such warmth and passion of years. When she asks Grant
to make love to her before leaving, there is an urgency and
scintillating sexiness about her.
Away From Her sparkles as we watch Grant walk his emotional tight-rope.
The movie is made with such surety that it comes as a shock to realise
the director is a first time filmmaker in her twenties. Sarah Polley
evokes Bergman, as she too touches "wordless secrets only the cinema
can discover." This talented young woman is highly selective in her
acting roles and now, behind the camera, impresses with her insight and
My last conversation with my mother, before she was institutionalised,
or I even realised what was happening, was a long distance phone call.
After chatting happily for five minutes, she said, quite chirpily and
very politely, "What's your name again?" Memory is not always a two-way
process. Nor objective. But, like this film, it can be mesmerising,
heart-wrenching, and a remarkably intimate vision.