Still Alice Film Review

Julianne Moore finally won an Oscar, and it was definitely worthy for her role as Alice. This movie is sad but very watchable, I’ve seen it twice and would be happy to see it a third time. Trailer:

Review without spoilers

Alice Howland is a 50 year old Professor of Linguistics at Columbia University, she has a loving, and equally busy, husband, played by Alec Baldwin as well as three grown-up children, one is lawyer, one is a doctor and the youngest is a struggling actress (played by Kristen Stewart or better known as Bella from Twilight). Just after her 50th birthday, she starts noticing that she is forgetting certain words, and one day after getting lost she goes to see a neurologist. He diagnoses her with early on-set Alzheimers Disease.

Review with Spoilers (Don’t read if you intend to watch the movie)

At the beginning of the film you are shown Alice giving a lecture at UCLA – she is so articulate and poised, it really contrasts to what happens to her by the end of the movie. I like how her relationship is portrayed with Lydia her youngest (Kristen Stewart), they seem really natural together and have good chemistry. I don’t really feel the same way with her older children, they feel very stiff and cookie-cutter, however that does not detract from the movie, and I probably only noticed that the second time I saw it. Julianne Moore gives a superb performance, but I am sure that goes without saying as she has an Oscar to prove that. The way she depicts the struggles, isolation and fight is amazing.

I thought the way she handled her neurology appointments, leading up to her diagnosis and afterwards seemed very in-keeping to the personality of Alice. Alice is a high-flying college professor, constantly on the go, very cerebral, playing word games on her iPhone etc. The way she was trying to test herself, using her iPhone, testing herself with questions, making a video for herself it seemed reminiscent of what I would expect from a person like that, it was well-written.

When she had to tell her children that not only was she about to get very sick, but that they could develop the disease too (what a horrible thing to have to say to your children) that really pulled at my heart strings, she blamed herself even though it’s not her fault, no one can control their genes.

It’s very sad how young she was and how quickly she deteriorated. It seemed like she went from seemingly normal, able to hold conversations and even work, to not being able to dress herself, speak properly or take care of herself in months, although the time frame isn’t completely clear. It is very sad when she says that she would rather have cancer because people go on walks for you and wear a ribbon (less of a stigma), but in fact the Alzheimers Society do “Memory Walks”.

alzheimers disease still alice

My favourite part of the movie was the speech that she gave to the Alzheimers Society, which was directly in contrast to the lecture she gave at the beginning. This time it took her 3 days to write, she had to use a highlighter so that she knew what words she has already said or ‘yellow thingy’ as she called it, she drops her notes and fumbles over words, but wow! She actually made me cry, not that its hard to do that, but it was very moving.

My least favourite part of the movie was when she asked her husband to take a sabbatical, to spend time with her while she still knew who she was. He refused and then later takes a job in Minnesota and moves away, leaving the youngest daughter (Lydia) to look after her mother, who at this point required constant care. He says to Lydia: “You’re a better man that I” and I would have to agree with that. I know it’s harsh, I can’t even imagine how people get through these things, but I really don’t like that he put his job first – even though she probably would have done the same. I did love the irony though of the fact that the older two children were very critical of Lydia, said how flighty she was, never reliable or around for important occasions and yet she was the one out of them all that stepped up to take care of their mother.

I would have liked the movie to have been slightly longer to show more of the later disease, as you only really see a glimpse, I believe in the book she moves into a nursing home/assisted living, it would be interesting to see that transition, though terribly sad I am sure.

The release date of this movie was actually in December, but it is back in Cinemas, no doubt due to the Academy Award.

Lisa Genova is the author of Still Alice, which was based on her grandmother. She is about to release a new book called “Inside the O’Briens” which is about a cop who develops Huntington’s Disease. After watching the movie I will have to read both of these books.

Have you seen Still Alice? What did you think?

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