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Away From Her - Preview

Away From Her

Preview by Jack Foley

ONE of the highlights of the recent Berlin Film Festival was a tender film called Away From Her, which marked the directorial debut of Sarah Polley (of Dawn Of The Dead, My Life Without Me fame).

The film stars Julie Christie (on Oscar calibre form), Gordon Pinsent, Olympia Dukakis and Michael Murphy and offers a sensitive and deeply moving look at the affect of Alzheimer’s on a relationship.

Grant (Pinsent) and Fiona Anderson (Christie) have been (mostly) happily married for 50 years. Although their relationship has at times been fraught by the odd insinuation on her part, their remaining years together promise to be happy – until Fiona begins to suffer from severe memory loss and she’s diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s.

She allows herself to be admitted to a home for the elderly that specialises in cases such as hers. But one of the institution’s rules is that patients are not allowed to receive visitors during their first 30 days at the home. This is to enable them adjust to their new environment undisturbed.

When Grant visits his wife after 30 days Fiona doesn’t even recognise him. The subject of all of her affections is now another inhabitant of the home named Aubrey (Murphy).

Grant has no option other than to accept his new status as a concerned acquain tance and to spend his daily visits watching in silence as the relationship between Fiona and Aubrey becomes more intimate.

Away From Her is based on a short story from Alice Munro called The Bear Came Over The Mountain and it won many friends at Berlin, where Christie was praised for her terrific performance, and Polley for her assured direction.

Polley says of her decision to direct: “I was just so unbelievably moved by the story. I had just finished working with Julie Christie and as I read, I kept seeing her face in the character of Fiona.

“I’m certainly not one of those people who reflexively thinks about adapting stories; I just want to leave the things I love alone. But this fascinated me. I read the story and I saw the film and I knew what the film was.”

Paying tribute to Polley’s skill behind the camera and in adapting her own screenplay, the film’s producer, Simone Urdl, adds: “The role of Alzheimer’s in the film is a metaphor for how memory plays out in a long relationship: what we choose to remember, what we choose to forget.

“It’s quite mature for Sarah because she has not gone along that path yet.”

Away From Her opens in UK cinemas on April 27.