'Away From Her' an excellent examination of Alzheimers

On occasion, a film captures certain aspects of life so truly that it takes your breath away. "Away From Her" does that. It opens a door and asks us to step through and because what we are about to experience is so profound and heart-wrenching, it is all but impossible to not feel a reluctance to enter &

better to remain in the doorway where the reality is softened; it's a feeling that never lightens throughout this beautifully rendered film.

Based on an Alice Munro short story, and written for the screen by director Sarah Polley, "Away From Her" examines the toll that Alzheimers can exact on a relationship. Fiona (Julie Christie), still vibrant, married to Grant (Gordon Pinset) for 44 years, is slowly losing her memory. It becomes a terrifying experience. Finally, against the wishes of her husband, she makes the decision to enter an extended care facility. He is devastated and begs her not to leave. But her options in life are inextricably narrowing.

Alzheimers is a cruel and relentless illness, a slow fade into a mist where flashes of lucidity can occur, sparking a fragile hope, only to be extinguished. It's a reality against which rage and resistance are impotent. And it's deeply unfair.

There's a poignant moment when Fiona turns to Grant and says, simply, "I think people are too demanding. People want to be in love every single day. What a liability." It's a rare moment, filled with insight and truth, for "Away From Her" is also a long look at what it means to be married for decades, to tenaciously remain together long after the frantic days of the honeymoon are but pale images, and to have spent a lifetime with one person, resolved to remain and love and endure.

Far too often, films extoll the intensity and glow of being young, when romance holds nothing but promise. What life can offer when old age takes hold, when so much of every day can be lived fully only with effort, is too often ignored by screenwriters. But as we see in this marvelous film, as Fiona says her long good-bye, courage comes in many forms and is not just a quality reserved for the young and daring.

Perhaps there is some satisfaction in facing old age if, as Dylan Thomas wrote, you "do not go gentle into that good night. Old age should burn and rave at close of day. Rage, rage against the dying of the light." The tragedy of Alzheimers is that it robs you not only of your memory but also of your ability to do that very thing, for the dying of the light is a curtain that is ultimately impenetrable.


"Waitress" swings for the sweet spot and connects wonderfully.

Set in a small town in the South, more specifically Joe's Pie Diner, where a panoply of pies are served, most made by Jenna (Keri Russell), who is not only one of three waitresses, but a gifted creator of sublime pies. These would be light-crusted pies that soar, send patrons' taste buds into near riot, some locals encouraging Jenna to enter the city pie making contest, the prize being $25,000. Money that Jenna desperately needs.

The problem is that Jenna is trapped in a loveless marriage with Earl (Jeremy Sisto), whose insecurities are so disabling (he needs reassurance and attention constantly) that Jenna's life is sadly controlled and truncated. She yearns to break out and away from Earl; he does all he can to ensnare her. The coup de grace to Jenna's hopes and dreams of freedom occurs when she discovers she is pregnant, something that she believes seals her fate. She will have to live Earl's idea of a life forever. That would be Earl who, when he hears that Jenna is with child worries that he might get less attention than he needs, making her promise that when the baby comes, she will not love it more than him. So needy is Earl, constantly wondering if Jenna is hearing every word he says, often making her repeat, verbatim, what he's said. If she can't, well, Earl gets more than a little upset. As a result, feeling trapped and hopeless, she begins making "I Hate My Husband" pies, "Bad Baby Pies," "I'm Having an Affair Pies," each concoction reflecting her mood.

Jenna's doctor, in contrast, is a young and disorganized newbie to town, who, from the minute he meets Jenna, is smitten &

needlessly complicating both their lives. Each seems starved for affection, for contact, and so they begin a boisterous (at least in the examining room) affair.

"Waitress" is a small gem of a film. The ensemble of actors are marvelous, to include Andy Griffith, blustery curmudgeon and the diner's owner, as well as Cheryl Hines as Becky, senior waitress.

This film gives Russell an opportunity to flex her acting ability which she does to wonderful effect. She steals every scene and though her roles in the past have been somewhat limited, to include a lot of television, hopefully this will be her breakout movie. The movie is getting the notice it deserves.

As a tragic aside. The writer and director of the film, Adrienne Shelley is amazing. She also portrays one of the waitresses, Dawn, who is quirky and delightful and an innocent. Just before "Waitress" was to debut, Shelley was murdered in New York. Her film &

the script, the perfectly imagined characters &

is her sublime pie, a gift to moviegoers, a recipe of romance, sadness, joy and whimsy. How sad she was not here to see the look on people's faces when they left the theater smiling, marveling at this very special film.

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