Review: ‘Still Alice’

Submitted by: EJ Newbold

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My rating: 9.5/10

I’m writing this now, straight after I leave the screening of watching this masterpiece as lots of emotions and thoughts run through my head, with a main thought that just keeps popping up again and again: “WOW.”

As someone who’s a huge fan of Kristen Stewart as well as a fan Julianne Moore’s work over the years this was a highly anticipated film for me, especially with all the recent award nominations and wins these past months. I just hadn’t truly factored in how truly amazing this film is.

‘Still Alice’ is about a fifty-year-old linguistics professor Alice Howland POV on how her onset Alzheimer’s factors on in her life as she moves through key stages of her life, with her grown up children and husband, as the disease takes its toll with her mind and how that affects her.

With being an adaptation based from Lisa Genova‘s book of the same name, the emotions and portrayal of the subject matter of Alzheimer’s is done in a realistic and subtle fashion with feelings of anger, fear, worry and guilt all being prominent in the narrative. Nothing is overbearing though and with what’s shared on screen or in the character’s dialogue, everything has a reason and meaning to be there.

Still Alice is a very thought out film – the irony doesn’t pass me with what the subject matter is – and you truly believe in what the actors are feeling with the vulnerability from all; you just want to hug and care for them with having an understanding of everything as a voyeur into their lives!

This sympathy is a factor I believe carries the film, as well as the beautiful score and cinematography that’s been used with the use of natural lighting, trees and the blurred dynamics (within the changeover through the foreground to background) and the story within the editing never feels too rushed or slow. The audience takes in everything with understanding and with the harsh blows towards Alice and her family as news is shared and their lives continue with the Alzheimer’s disease being included in their family and these ups and downs keeps Still Alice interesting.

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What makes it so amazing is that the actors haven’t done anything to themselves to add more to the film. It’s like they are playing themselves, with John (Alec Baldwin) working all the time and Lydia (Kristen Stewart) wanting to be an actress which is judged by Alice in the film though her opinion changes with her illness, as she watches her three children grow and achieve key aspects in their lives and attempts to appreciate as much as she can within her situation.

I feel that this’ one of Kristen’s best parts she’s been portrayed in and somewhat reminds me of her lead role in Speak years ago due to the emotion and inner struggle she brings with her character of Lydia. Though only being a supporting actress in the film she brings a lot to the storyline and the key element of someone who is almost an outsider – due to her acting inspirations – and as she isn’t as busy as her older brother Tom (Hunter Parrish) and sister Anna (Kate Bosworth) with their medical and law work or their families that add to the Howland’s, she’s there for her Mum more.

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Lydia’s relatable with the audience as being there for Alice throughout the ongoing disease is powerful and she seems like the rock of the family, asking how her mother is feeling numerous of times, lots via Skype, which adds another layer emotionally. You understand both Lydia and Alice’s characters more with the honest questions and replies that are shared. It’s raw and includes conflict, just like how Alzheimer’s is perceived within the 101 minutes of the film.

Though there are many adorable scenes in the film such as John and Alice’s interactions together, especially within the flashback scenes of what they were like when they were younger, the involvement of the foreshadowing of the ice cream shop and Lydia hugging the bread before their Christmas meal, there are also some utterly heart-breaking parts such as ‘the butterfly’ scenes.

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What you learn later is that Alice wears a necklace with a butterfly on it that was given to her by her mother so it has an even deeper meaning to it. Every time an aspect of the butterfly scene was bought up I cried. I’m so pleased Julianne Moore has won lots of awards as her part of Alice in this film, including her Oscar, as she played the character so well and honestly. Julianne’s said that she’d researched the part within groups who has onset Alzheimer’s and it showed as seems a lot of effort and time had been put into this production on and off camera.

Elements like in how Alice forgets words as well as using a highlighter pen while reading adds to the scenes and worked well as everything flowed. You really see the dramatic change within her character both physically and emotionally form the beginning to end of the film and I think that is what blew me away the most as though Alzheimer’s is mental and can’t really be seen, but more felt, you can definitely see physical impacts of its side effects which is more than just being tired.

I adored the acting in Still Alice as well as the cinematography with the simple use of costume and set, it meant that the best parts of the storyline was highlighted and memorial even after the credits rolled; from Alice’s long monologue of Alice presenting about Alzheimer’s in which made everyone think about how it feels to have it and that she’s not suffering, but instead struggling – struggling to be a part of things and to be connected in who she is and wants to do within the time as it gets worse, week by week, even with having loved ones around you – as well as getting lost while running locally [shown in trailer]

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Love and family are definitely the key themes included in this film. It made me think and hope in inspirations I want to achieve in my life, just like director Richard Glatzer did, as I never know what could happen around the corner.

“But we have to keep the important things in your life going, we have to try or we are going to go crazy…”– John Howland to Alice

With being an indie film I wasn’t let down and despite being very emotional within key scenes and being able to relate due to my Granddad having Alzheimer’s disease and how he may have been feeling before passing late last year, I will be happy to watch it again as it made me think and appreciate things I have as well as acknowledge where you can go like the last scene shows. It’s such a beautiful drama, on a serious topic, with great gripping performances.

A/N It’s a wonderful and throughout production and I’m glad Glatzer was able to create it. RIP Richard, I’m happy that you were able to share this with Wash Westmoreland before your passing and that it’s done so well in film festivals and awards. Many of us stayed sat in our seats as Karen Elson’s ‘If I Had a Boat’ played while the credits rolled just thinking about everything, silently taking everything in.

‘Make My Choices’ scene:

‘Losing My Mind’ scene:

Julianne Moore about her research on Alzheimer’s interview:

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