Movie Review: “Still Alice” – A Moving Story

Written by Caitlin Cooper January 28, 2015

still alice

Films which depict people living with very real diseases and illnesses aren’t new. Realistic films can be just as stunning, moving, and gripping as those which lean more towards science fiction and fantasy. People want to see real life, to understand what people go through when facing often very difficult situations. “Still Alice”, based on the novel by neuroscientist Lisa Genova, is a story about a life interrupted and how different people face and respond to unfortunate circumstances.

“Still Alice” tells the tale of a linguistics professor (Julianne Moore) who begins to forget words. After weeks of appointments with a neuroscientist, Alice is diagnosed with early onset alzheimer’s disease. Alice must learn to cope with her disease, as must her husband (Alec Baldwin) and children. She wants to maintain her lifestyle as much as she can before she loses herself, but what Alice comes to realize is that the disease doesn’t define who she is.

“On the bad days I feel like I can’t find myself.”

The story that “Still Alice” tells is beautiful and sad. Alice goes from an independent, successful, and wonderful wife and mother to someone who must rely upon others for simple everyday tasks. Perhaps one of the worst things for Alice is knowing that her disease will continue to progress to the point where all of her goals and wants will probably remain unattainable to her or be forgotten. Each family member copes with Alice’s disease in a different way. Her husband buries himself in work so he can avoid the reality of it. Her older daughter, Anna (Kate Bosworth), expects her mom to stop trying to be as independent as she can. The most affective relationship in “Still Alice” is that between Alice and her daughter Lydia (Kristen Stewart). Lydia picked up on the symptoms her mom was experiencing, and understands and encourages her mom to try to be independent like she wishes to be. She is the only family member who decides to forget about family tension in order to spend as many good times with her mom as she can. Lydia is the only person in “Still Alice” who asks Alice how she feels and what the disease is like. To me, the relationship between Alice and Lydia is the most important one in the film.

still alice

What the screenplay lacks, however, is some close and uncomfortable looks into just how much her life has changed over the course of the film. “Still Alice” seems to gloss over some aspects and thus some big changes in her life are noticeably absent from the plot. How did Alice feel about no longer being a professor? Did the board decide to let her go, or did she decide? Things like this seem an important factor that have been cut out of the story. Also, the ending is rather abrupt to the point of being jarring. I suppose the closing scene shows that though Alice struggles with speech and memory, she is still an incredibly intelligent person. It also shows that her youngest child, Lydia has sacrificed her life in L.A. in order to be closer to her mom. But because the last scene just cuts off, it feels like the film is somehow incomplete.

“This is not who we are. This is our disease.”

What really makes “Still Alice” shine is its extremely talented cast. Moore was the perfect choice to play such a complex, emotional character. She beautifully plays the determined and brave woman who becomes increasingly angry with the hand she’s been dealt. Stewart delivers her lines with some of her awkwardness, but otherwise delivers one of the most memorable performances in the film. Baldwin is generally fairly stoic in “Still Alice”, but in some intense moments that are pivotal scenes it’s clear to see that his character is distressed with his seeing his wife struggle so much. Hunter Parrish, who plays Alice’s son Tom, isn’t a huge presence in the film but he makes a lasting impression with his vulnerability and range of emotion.

still alice

Overall, “Still Alice” is a deeply emotional film which shows the realities of a sad disease. The script has weak aspects, like its abrupt ending and the way it glosses over some important things, but the acting is superb which makes the story all the more memorable.

My Rating: 7.5/10

still alice

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About Caitlin Cooper

Caitlin Cooper

Caitlin is an avid watcher of movies and television shows so she decided to use her passion to write about them. She has a B.A. in English Language and Literature with a Minor in Creative Writing.

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