Directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, Still Alice (2014), is based on a novel by Lisa Genova under the same name. The film portrays the life of Professor Alice Howland (played by Julianne Moore), age 50, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She is a Harvard University Professor of Cognitive Psychology and a well-known linguist.
Before the diagnosis, Alice is relieved to learn from her doctor that she doesn’t have a brain tumour following a few appointments and tests. She realises that it is a rare form of familial Alzheimer’s disease, according to genetic tests, which means that each of her three children has a 50 per cent chance of inheriting a gene that would inevitably lead to the condition.
However, she is not prepared for what follows next. Alice is so devastated by her Alzheimer diagnosis that she tells her husband that she would have rather been given a cancer diagnosis instead.
As the story progress, Alice loses her ability to work as a Professor and begins to forget familiar faces and places.
Through Alice’s own eyes, we start to see her slow decline. With the use of technical tricks and smartphone reminders, Alice manages to hide her condition at first. However, as her illness progresses, her awareness gradually decreases.
In the film, we also get to see how her husband and children deal with her illness. John, Alice’s husband (played by Alec Baldwin), often reacts in a mean way to the symptoms of Alice’s illness and seems to be too preoccupied with his career.
In addition, neither of her two other children, a son who is in medical school and a daughter who works as a lawyer, is at all sensitive to their mother’s condition. However, Lydia (played by Kristen Stewart), her youngest and rebellious daughter who is an actress, shows empathy for Alice.
The film poses the question of how much a person or family should give up on one of its members.
The use of music, sounds, and cinematography builds the tension and what she goes through in her drastic transition owing to her illness.
I must say that Moore outshines Kristen Stewart and Kate Bosworth despite their great performances. Even the viewers are drawn into Alice’s crumbling world. Scenes start blurry and then gradually come into focus as the film goes on.
Moore’s performance hurt us deeper than we realise until tears start to roll down our cheeks. For her brilliant performance, she won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 2015. Her performance forms the foundation of the film and for the same reason be prepared for an upsetting ending.