Friday, 15 July 2016

The Netflix Film Review: Still Alice

Anyone who knows me will know I mostly watch Netflix whether it is my favourite TV shows: Orange is the new black, Pretty little liars and I've even discovered old series' like Full House. I've always loved films as you will know with an ever-growing list of 740 films I wish to see.

As soon as it came out, I wanted to see Still Alice, but with the difficult topic of Alzheimer's, I kept putting it off - thinking it would be too emotional or depressing, but I just found it to be so realistic and valuable to watch.

WARNING! There are a few spoilers if you haven't seen it.
Still Alice Poster

Plot Summary
It tells the story of Alice Howland, a respected and successful linguistics professor, who is happily married with three grown children. Her life seems perfect at 50, but this changes when she begins to forget words and much more things in her life. When her doctor diagnoses her with the rarer early-onset- Alzheimer's Disease, Alice and her family come under the challenge of dealing with the terminal degenerative neurological condition as it continues to progress slowly.

What is Alzheimer's?
If like me, you didn't know much about Alzheimer's, according to Alzheimer's Association, it is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behaviour. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks. The majority of people who are diagnosed are over the age of 65, but 5% of people with the disease have early onset Alzheimer's like the character of Alice; this will appear in someone who is in their forties or fifties.

The Review
Julianne Moore was incredible, and went on to win a few awards for her role as Alice. Most notably Academic Award, Golden Globe and BAFTA - all for best actress. It was hardly surprising as she realistically portrays a woman fighting to keep her identity as she effectively forgets who she is, the names of her family members and all the things she is good at. It is hard to warm to some of her family members who appear to make the diagnosis about them instead of enjoying the time they do have.

Kirsten Stewart plays her youngest, Lydia, who is fantastically played. Alice's character before her diagnosis struggles to understand why her daughter won't study, as a back-up for her acting career. They go to log-heads with this, but in a way it shows the love of a mother and daughter, as her daughter goes on to be the one who can get through to her. Lydia ends up coming to care for her mother in the end, and helps her with things such as writing her speech to talk for the Alzheimer's society. I couldn't help warming to Lydia too who was supportive without burdening her with how she felt about it. She was the only one to ask how her mother felt about it.

Her husband (played by Alec Baldwin) almost comes across as 'selfish' throughout her illness. Like any husband, I think he proves that he is there 'death do us part'. However, when he is offered a new job in another state, he thinks of the money rather than the time he has left with Alice. She heartbreakingly begs him to delay the job and spend the year with her. He tries his best to care for her at home, but it seems he just isn't equipped to deal with it mentally. Considering taking her to a home as she deteriorates, Lydia steps in.

There is only a few lines for the character of the only son, Tom, which is a shame, but Kate Bosworth's character, Anna more than makes up for it. As the oldest daughter, Anna is the first to cry when she hears of her mother's diagnosis. She is about to start trying for a baby, and with the shocking news that there is a 50/50 chance that kids can inherit the gene, Anna is tested. Her and Tom both get tested, and unfortunately one is positive for the gene; Lydia opts to not find out.

This truly explores all areas of the condition from Alice's mental state of the condition quoting that she'd prefer cancer with "something to fight", the vulnerability of a strong woman who has made her own success in career and the way she slowly deteriorates as Alzheimer's takes hold. There is no hollywood happy ending like most films, and there isn't an optimistic end; it would be a cheat because there is no cure for Alzheimer's and the effects are irreversible. That being said, the film illustrates the good life she had and it often said what great things she achieved all while raising three kids. The theme of love runs through and I believe it is the saviour for Alice. You see she loves her family even at her most ill; she might not know who she is, but feels a sense of warmth for them.

My curious nature wishes it had more about the condition (from the doctor's angle), but I feel this might not have translated well (hence why it's not been done).  Even so, I promise this film won't disappoint and will stir your emotions as you learn how Alzheimer's might be for the person and their family.

To compare to
I haven't seen any other film on Alzheimer's, but it vaguely reminded me of The Theory of Everything. It had the same feeling that the main character had a shock diagnosis that would potentially affect their career and family life. Hopefully the film will inspire more realistic reputations of the terrible illness that affects so many.

Rating: 9/10
It is an amazing film that seems to sum up Alzheimer's through the eyes of the person. Obviously I don't know how realistic it is as I have no experience of Dementia or Alzheimer's, but I believe it to at least raise awareness to those who have no idea about the disease like me. It isn't a film I'd repeatedly watch, but it is a definite must-see. Julianne Moore is incredible in this, and I believe the parts of Kate Bosworth and Kristen Stewart are underrated.

From watching the film, I know I will definitely go and read the book. I will probably review that too when I get round to buying it!

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