Married for 50 years, Grant and Fiona’s commitment to each other appears unwavering, and their everyday life is full of tenderness and humour. This serenity is broken only by the occasional, carefully restrained reference to the past, giving a sense that this marriage may not always have been such a fairy tale. This tendency of Fiona’s to make such references, along with her increasingly evident memory loss, creates a tension that is usually brushed off casually by both of them. As the lapses become more obvious and dramatic, it is no longer possible for either of them to ignore the fact that Fiona is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Eventually, Fiona decides that it is time for her to enter into Meadowlake, a retirement home that specializes in the disease. One of the more archaic rules of Meadowlake is that a patient may not have any visitors during their first month in the facility in order to “adjust.” After an excruciatingly painful 30 days separated from his wife, Grant returns to Meadowlake to discover Fiona seems to have no memory of him and has turned all of her affection to Aubrey, another resident in the home.
Away from Her is the screenplay adaptation of celebrated author Alice Munro’s short story The Bear Came Over the Mountain.
Fiona and Grant have been married for over forty years. Little by little, they have to face the fact that Fiona’s growing absent-mindedness is a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. After Fiona is found lost after having wandered away from home, man and wife agree that she must go to a specialized nursing home. For the first time in their life, they have to undergo a long term separation, due to the nursing home policy for the first month after a patient’s admission. Grant visits Fiona after this separation period and finds out that she has apparently forgotten him and that she has focused her affection on another man, Aubrey.
Known as much for her intelligence as for her talent, Canadian actress Sarah Polley has been wowing television and film audiences since she was barely out of diapers. Born January 8, 1979, in the Toronto area, Polley got her first screen role at the age of six, in Disney’s One Magic Christmas. From 1987 to 1988, Polley made her name in the title role of the Canadian television series Ramona. Her work on the show led to more screen work, first in the Matt Dillon flop The Big Town (1987) and then in Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1989).
In 1990, Polley got a lead role on the acclaimed TV series The Road to Avonlea, a part that she played for five seasons. In 1994, she had a small but significant role in Atom Egoyan’s Exotica and again collaborated with the director in 1997, for his critically lauded The Sweet Hereafter. The film was nominated for a host of awards, including a Best Director Oscar… read more
At first I watched the film on a TV channel, without knowing who directed it. I thought it was made by a senior filmmaker. When I realized it was directed by Sarah Polley I was astonished. The proof that a human being could made a masterpiece in cinema before the age of thirty. (Let's not talk about my view on Breathless and Citizen Kane here.)
One might call it superficially Bergmanesque - derivative of Scenes from a Marriage + Saraband; geriatric wife-swap, more thoughtlessly - but this is Polley’s, Christie’s and Pinsent’s film entirely, with its own singular sensibility and mature tenderness. Its focus on the degenerative effects of Alzheimer’s is all the more accentuated by its fractured narrative, freely cutting back and forth between the past and present to tell its story, to progressively poignant effect. An auspicious debut.
There’s not much I can add here that hasn’t already been covered by other critics and Mubi neighbors other than to say some films are like novels, required reading when it comes to ‘things of the heart’… read review