When she begins to forget random words and gets lost in her hometown, Alice (Julianne Moore) seeks help from a neurologist. Diagnosed with familial early onset Alzheimer’s, Alice and her family try to keep going as normal, for as long as possible, while Alice is painfully aware of everything she is losing.
There is bound to be a lot of interest in Still Alice since Moore’s Oscar win for her leading role, and even though the film was not nominated for awards in other Oscar categories – a move that can often spell disaster – Still Alice is a powerful and touching film.
Julianne Moore is the heart and soul of Still Alice; she does not play the title character as a perfect woman, but instead makes her rounded and believable, with a touch of arrogance. As the film goes on, and Alice’s disease progresses, Julianne Moore makes Alice vulnerable and, at turns, vicious as she struggles to come to terms with a disease that is outside of her control. Moore is quiet and understated, and it is precisely this that makes her performance so mesmerising and powerful. The rest of the cast – Kate Bosworth, Alec Baldwin, Hunter Parrish and Kristen Stewart – back Moore up admirably, with Baldwin and Stewart as standouts.
The story, written by directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland – and based on Lisa Genova’s novel of the same name – focuses on Alice and the struggle she goes through is trying to hold onto herself in the face of a degenerative disease. Glatzer and Westmoreland never make the film spill into the realm of melodrama, but they don’t pull any punches either – lines such as ‘I wish I had cancer’ since this is a visible disease are particularly honest – and they do not force Moore to remain in a glamorous role as her character changes. This is not a woman who goes gracefully into that good night, lying in a hospital bed looking tired but beautiful, instead Moore, as Alice, becomes incontinent, angry, impatient and eventually, slips away, so that almost none of the character’s spark is left.
Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland direct competently, coaxing a moving and heartwrenching performance from Moore, but allowing the supporting cast to be hones too – selfish, emotionally neglectful, resentful and kind – so as to also show the manner in which people deal with tragedy.
In all, Still Alice is anchored by a quiet but unselfconscious and powerful performance from Julianne Moore. The story is strong and the supporting cast ably back Moore, making Still Alice a gut-punch, honest emotional film that will leave audiences feeling a little fearful, a little grateful and a little frazzled.