Away From Her
Canadian short and TV filmmaker Sarah Polley’s leap into feature film directing is a moving adaptation of Alice Munro’s short story The Bear Came Over the Mountain. Set in present day Ontario, middle class Fiona (Julie Christie) and Grant (Gordon Pinsent) have been married for 40 years. Their harmonious life is soon disturbed when Fiona is diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s and decides to go into a retirement home. Grant is forbidden to visit her for 30 days to allow Fiona to ‘adjust’. Arriving for his first visit, he finds Fiona’s affection has transferred onto Aubrey, a fellow resident. Confused and angry, he seeks emotional and physical solace with Aubrey’s wife Marian (Olympia Dukakis).
Polley skilfully manages to slowly draw out this intensely personal drama without losing pace and finds odd moments of humour. Confidently photographed in static, composed shots of wide open Ontario spaces or institutionalised interiors, this is a young director who is clearly not afraid to tackle hard-hitting subjects, placing the older generation centre stage - in love, in lust, in anger and in remorse. A beautifully low-key, intelligent debut.