Written by Yosra Osman

Arts

Still Alice is sending out the right message

Standard Issue‘s film reviewer Yosra Osman also works for Alzheimer’s Research UK. So what did she makes of Julianne Moore’s Oscar winning depiction of a woman with the disease?

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Did you know that there are currently 500,000 women living with dementia in the UK? A report launched on Sunday by Alzheimer’s Research UK shows dementia is now the leading cause of death for British women. With that in mind it’s poignant that Still Alice is currently in cinemas.

I work for Alzheimer’s Research UK and know many people who have been affected by dementia, including a member of my own family. Any film that deals with dementia is, therefore, often treated with trepidation on my part. I wonder if I’m going to watch an accurate depiction or if I’m going to have to sit through another misleading Hollywood take designed to be emotionally manipulative.

For the most part Still Alice gets it right. Julianne Moore plays Dr Alice Howland: a linguistics professor who is diagnosed with a rare form of early-onset Alzheimer’s at the young age of 50. Her intellectual and physical capacity declines and we learn the devastating truth that her disease is hereditary and could be passed on to one or more of her three children.

Writer-directors Richard Glatzer (who sadly passed away from Motor Neurone Disease last week) and Wash Westmoreland are productively straightforward in telling Alice’s story. The representation of early-onset Alzheimer’s is effective and genuine and there’s no over-sentimentality caked over the depiction of the disease and its effects.

That being said you still might want to take some tissues; key emotive scenes are subtly done but deeply moving. Yes I cry every time I watch Dumbo but Still Alice moved most of the people in my screening to tears; I’ll take that as evidence that its effectiveness goes beyond my emotional oversensitivity.

Julianne Moore’s central performance in Still Alice is sensitive, authentic and powerful  well worthy of all the recognition she has received. I’m thrilled she is now an Oscar winner because she has always been been a truly excellent performer. Kristen Stewart, who I have been defending since watching Adventureland a few years back, also stands out. She plays Alice’s younger daughter Lydia with maturity and compassion (Twilight haters  give her a chance. That was six years ago and we’re all over it).

In telling the story of a woman with early-onset Alzheimer’s Still Alice does much to dispel the myth that dementia is a natural part of aging but it’s important to note that the condition is no less tragic for a 90-year-old woman or 70-year-old man. People with dementia are living with diseases that rob them of their very identities as well as their memories. They are not just having ‘senior moments’.

Still Alice is an emotional film that manages to be uplifting despite tough subject matter. Having seen the effects of dementia on so many people I know and love, I was really moved. And as someone who works for an organisation that is doing all it can to defeat dementia, I’m glad it’s sending out the right message.

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Written by Yosra Osman

Yosra Osman is a mid-twenties film fan and self-confessed daydreamer of dangerous proportions