Film Review: Still Alice

I honestly thought that Still Alice, annoyingly, would pass me by, that it’s distribution would be too small, with one screening at an antisocial time, all it presenting. After all, this is a small budget film shot in 23 days. And even with Julianne Moore’s award domination every rumour, every listing and every guess seemed to hint that I would have to wait.

Part of my though thought that perhaps, just maybe, it’s awards born reputation and natural demand therefore, would get it a bigger release and thankfully, it appears I was right as a sizeable number of showings, albeit in a tiny auditorium appeared at the local multiplex and so, it was finally time to see whether the adulation Moore received was justified. Whether Still Alice was actually any good?

Julianne Moore (Oscar 2015) - Still Alice

I had purposefully been ignore everything and anything I could towards the film. I hadn’t watched the trailer, and I’d let my mind wander as best I could when I heard a review. I wanted to go in cold, without preconceived ideas, or backfill to the story. I wanted to judge it blind and not from a position of opinionated information. I hadn’t even read the book.

And now I’ve seen it, it’s obvious why Julianne Moore didn’t simply clean up every awards ceremony, but rather make an almost mockery of them. Her performance is stunning. Actually it’s more than stunning. It’s heart wrenchingly powerful. For me, it’s so good in fact, that it even makes Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of Stephen Hawkin in The Theory Of Everything and the equally destructive transformation he goes through, pale in comparison.

She honestly managed to drag me through just about every emotion possible, there are times when I felt her pain, her joy, her panic. She feels so human, so vulnerable and scared that I spent huge parts of the film feeling completely humbled and very reflective. Reflective of the fact that the battles I currently face, my fight against anorexia, are nothing compared to war she is destined to lose. She made me feel foolish and pathetic for being anorexic, and yet gave me strength, gave me hope that life if worth fighting for, that I must rebuild my life. I must win, because she can’t.

She clarified the plan, the future, I see in my head. That is how strong her performance is.

Sadly though, when you lose focus on Moore and take in the world around her, the family she’s unwitting and unwantingly imploding, things start to become weaker.

Kristen Stewart (T-Shirt) - Still Alice

There are times in the film when I felt that it was slow and verging on boring. Passages just seem to stagnate and never go anywhere. Events just ticking by. It’s hard to know what else this film could do for large parts, as you just have to sit there and watch a character decline, to forget, but it meant the narrative direction of the film just never felt right. I often felt it was simply taking lots of sideways steps rather than attempting to move forward. I think I can best sum this up by the fact there were times in the film that I was more interested in trying to work out what was written on Kristen Stewart’s T-Shirt, or realising I own the same salt and pepper grinders as they have in the kitchen.

Talking of the Stewart and therefore, the supportive cast, I have issues with them. The family as a whole just don’t seem to somehow fit. They don’t look biologically connected. Alec Baldwin just looks a bit glossy and unattached. He appears too “Hollywood bright lights” rather than academic scholar and while Kristen Stewart brings her character to life in a way that feels instantly likeable, she almost somehow manages to be emotional stronger, devoid of the pain, that you know would be tearing through her in real life. And yet, for these faults, they also feel right. I didn’t like Baldwin but I couldn’t image, I can’t picture, anyone else playing the role. And equally with Stewart, she seems limply weak yet totally human.

Alec Baldwin - Still Alice

The last two paragraphs sound like I am totally destroying the film and I’m not. It is amazing and mortally powerful. A sense which is heightened by Ilan Eshkeri’s soundtrack, which while noticeably minimalistic is so immensely provocative and persuasive, that I’ve come away almost shell shocked by what I’ve seen. It’s simply a case that the film as a whole is a little slow and it’s message a little forced at times to feel completely polished or overly satisfying. It’s not a feel good film at all.

But it’s not meant to be. You’re meant to feel pain. This is a film of real life, of real illness and Julianne Moore brings to life a disease rather than a character and made me question, from my very core, how I would cope? And because of that, because I can’t get it out of my head, because I know in a day, a week, maybe even a month, I will still see her performance, the terror in her eyes, the confusion and disorientation, I have to simply say, it’s arguably the strongest film emotionally I’ve seen in years.

9 out of 10 stars (9 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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