Still Alice

Directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland

Starring Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kate Bosworth and Kristen Stewart
In US Cinemas December 5th, 2014
In UK Cinemas March 6th, 2015

by Joanna Orland

Based on the novel of the same name, Still Alice follows Columbia linguistics professor Alice Howland (Moore) as she is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease.  The story portrays her suffering and decline as she starts to forget her words, her family, and herself.  Not only is Alice being tested by this terrible diagnosis, but her husband John (Baldwin) and three grown children are too in one of the most difficult situations of their lives.

While the story is sad, the performances are heartbreaking.  Julianne Moore gives the performance of her career in Still Alice, which is saying a lot as she always delivers in every role, time and time again.  This performance of hers is particularly heart-wrenching, sincere and immersive.  There is a specific scene late in the film when she is strongly suffering from her disease while watching a video of her former self where Moore embodies Alice, the woman she was and the woman she becomes.  This is mirrored through her family’s treatment of her, with excellent supporting performances from Alec Baldwin as her compassionate husband, and Kristen Stewart as her conflicted daughter Lydia.

Out of Alice’s three children, Lydia is the one she has least connected with.  The baby of the family, Lydia is also the black sheep having chosen to pursue an LA lifestyle and acting career, unlike her doctor and lawyer siblings with whom Alice is much closer.  As Alice’s illness develops, the mother daughter relationship grows in beautiful naturalistic form.  Never before has Kristen Stewart given a performance like this.  Since her roles in Still Alice and Camp X-Ray, I am coming around to the idea that Stewart may actually be a talented actress and not merely a teen idol from the Twilight series.  I too am surprised by these words.

The film itself sometimes strays into melodrama, but the performances keep the story grounded.  Still Alice is a powerful narrative carried by powerful acting.

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