Somewhat tactlessly, I bought a copy of Lisa Genova’s ‘Still Alice’ for a friend’s birthday; as the subject matter is a 50-year old university lecturer who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease, it was no doubt a little thoughtless. However, it’s a great read. The novel is extremely poignant and moving; the film adaptation probably more so given the number of us in the audience who spent at least part of the showing with tears rolling unchecked down our cheeks.
Alice is a university professor and she has a particular interest in the acquisition of language. It is a cruel twist of fate when she starts to forget words; how to choose the appropriate one and the meanings of long-familiar ones. As her faculties begin to falter, she seeks the advice of a hospital specialist who diagnoses Alzheimer’s Disease. The film depicts her gradual deterioration from a high-functioning, articulate academic to a shadow of what she was. By the end of the film, Alice is almost completely dependent upon her family for her care and support.
Julianne Moore won the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of the eponymous Alice and it is easy to understand why. She plays this part with such respect for Alice, so that the character’s dignity is never diminished, despite the cruel progression of the disease. There are moments of heart-wrenching sadness, hence the communal tears. The main resonance of the film is the insight into the fact that Alice’s debilitating illness is not confined to the older generation. When we left the cinema, there were some volunteers (also crying) collecting for the charity ‘Young Dementia UK‘. What a worthy cause.