Away From Her seemed to be the Little Critical Darling That Could from this summer. It centers around Grant (Gordon Pinsent) and Fiona (Julie Christie), a long-married couple in Canada. She is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and they struggle with the decision to put her in a nursing home. When she does eventually enter, the home’s rules prevent Grant from visiting for the first month while Fiona settles in. When he does visit, she is distant towards and had made friends – or more? – with another resident. Even more than a film about Alzheimer’s this is a film about marriage. It’s revealed that their marriage has not always been smooth and Grant feels like he may be paying for past transgressions when Fiona slips away from him.

Away From Her is about 40% great. The first part is tremendous. Fiona has more and more episodes and Grant anguishes letting her leave to go to the home. Their love and pain is incredibly moving.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t keep it up. Once Fiona moves and begins ignoring Grant, the whole film just becomes melancholy, slow, and rather boring. Much of it involves Grant sitting in the corner watching Fiona interact with her new friends. She treats him politely, like a young woman kindly turning down a suitor. But it just gets repetitive. The pacing feels off so that even with the change of seasons (and in Canada the changing seasons are obvious) I had little sense of time. There’s also a diversion with Olympia Dukakis as Fiona’s new friend’s wife that feels out of place initially then turns into something very interesting, but it’s the type of thing that’s too dreary along the way for the payoff to be worthwhile.

This film has a shot for Adapted Screenplay and it would be an okay choice, though I have to imagine it would get overshadowed in a year where everything is an adaptation. Christie is getting pushed for an acting nomination, assumably Lead. I have to admit I really didn’t like her here. I thought she overacted throughout. If anyone gets recognized it should be Pinsent. I did like Dukakis as a take-no-crap woman who drops a load of realism in Grant’s brooding, but her role is probably too small.

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