‘Please do not think that I am suffering. I am not suffering. I am struggling. Struggling to be part of things, to stay connected to whom I was once.’
The highly acclaimed independent film Still Alice depicts the story of renowned linguistics professor Alice Howland as she and her family come to terms with her diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Following the disease’s progression, the film explores not just what is lost, but also what is retained throughout the fundamentally human experience of dementia. The award-winning cast features Julianne Moore as Alice, Alec Baldwin as her husband, John, and Kristen Stewart as daughter, Lydia. The film has been praised for its authentic, unfeigned portrayal of Alzheimer’s, alongside its immediate and wider consequences.
The incredible sincerity pervading the film comes as no surprise when you consider those instrumental in its production: the novel on which the film is based, a New York Times’ bestseller, was written by neuroscientist Lisa Genova; and the screenplay adaptation was written and directed by Motor Neurone Disease (MND) sufferer Richard Glatzer and his husband Wash Westmoreland. It is clear that Glatzer and Westmoreland’s experiences with illness have informed Still Alice — it is raw and refreshingly frank, yet never over-dramatised.
For those interested in film, Still Alice is incredibly moving and faultlessly acted, with Julianne Moore’s performance deservedly winning her an Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe. For those dealing with a diagnosis, the fictional portrayal, though melancholy, is relatively realistic and informative, emphasising the gradual nature of the disease. For family members of those diagnosed, the struggles of Alice’s family are relatable and ‘human’, rather than unrealistically saint-like or heroic. And for anyone wishing to learn more about Alzheimer’s, Still Alice provides an honest and compassionate depiction.
Still Alice is a must-see; it educates and eradicates misconceptions, exemplifying film’s ability to explore difficult, and often misunderstood, topics like dementia.
Written by Nicole Bell
Later on this month, a response to Still Alice will form part of a short podcast series looking at the contribution the arts make to the representation and discussion of mental health.