Away from Her
Near the end of Away from Her, straightforward Marian (Olympia Dukakis) calls Grant (Gordon Pinsent) to ask him out on a semi-date. “I wanted to say, I know you’re not single and I don’t mean it that way. I’m not, either. But it doesn’t hurt to get out once in a while,” she rambles. Marian is given relatively little screen time in the film. But after one phone message, the audience knows her. She’s courageous and scared, lonely and well-meaning. That’s part of the beauty of Away from Her. So much is conveyed through small, deliberate moments---Grant reading to his wife, Fiona (Julie Christie); Grant and Fiona holding each other comfortably in bed; Marian’s tearful, giddy relief when she and Grant unexpectedly have sex. In these moments, first-time director (and excellent Canadian actress) Sarah Polley deftly establishes character and history. As Fiona begins to struggle with Alzheimer’s, and signs herself into a long-term care facility, we feel Grant’s loss, as he’s forced to be “away from her” for the first time in decades. We’re shown only a small chunk of the couple’s 44 years together, but as Grant and Fiona share moments of easy affection, and refer obliquely to long-past infidelities, we get a sense of the life they’ve shared---and all the memories at stake as Fiona slowly starts to lose herself. The film’s lovely, subtle and devastating.