By Stefanie Sybens (Belgium)
Still Alice (2014), based on the 2007 novel by neuroscientist Lisa Genova, premieres Julianna Moore who won the Oscars 2015 for Actress in a Leading Role. As a professor of linguistics at Columbia University, Dr. Alice Howland’s (Moore) world revolves around words. When she is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s, the failure of linguistic communication leads to the mind-body defragmentation.
‘The art of losing’, coined by poet Elizabeth Bishop, is the reference point throughout this movie. A very moving moment is when we see Alice going from a 66-point ‘Words With Friends’ score to a disappointing 6. The deterioration of the individual as well as its environment is stressed when daughter Lydia (Kristen Stewart) asks: “What does it actually feel like?” where Alice replies with: “some days I can almost pass for a normal person while on others I feel like I can’t find myself.” It gets even worse when the disease is genetically inherited which means her three children could have the disease as well. Her eldest daughter Anna (Kate Bosworth) tests positive, her son Tom (Hunter Parrish) tests negative and Lydia decides not to be tested.
The helplessness in the story is beautifully shot. Moving close-ups of Moore are being made as we see her struggle and trying to master this disease but ends up being devoured by it. She keeps her mind sharp by trying to remember words she wrote down earlier and even a series of questions pop up when she switches on her iPhone. However, reality sinks in when she makes a video of herself telling her future self that if she sees this video, it’s because she couldn’t answer the questions on her iPhone anymore. Furthermore, she explains that there is a bottle of prescription pills in the drawer of her bedroom and requests to take them all and tell absolutely no one. This plan didn’t work out as her caretaker opens the door downstairs and all the pills fall on the ground.
We see the story unfold by Alice’s tragic attempts to stay afloat but result in not being able to answer questions correctly and lose herself completely. Her husband John (Alec Baldwin) promised to take care of her but ends up leaving to Minnesota for his career as a professor. Lydia decides to stay with her mother in California and tries to build up an acting career as well. The story ends with Lydia reading a passage of the play Angels in America. She asks Alice what the play is about and ends up saying: love.