It takes a lot for a brilliant college professor like Alice Howland to forget her words in the midst of a big speech. But she does. It takes even more for her to get lost just blocks from her home in the middle of her regular run. But she does. It’s then that Alice decides to go for testing. And it’s then — at the ripe age of 49 — that Alice learns she is suffering from early on-set Alzheimer’s disease. It doesn’t feel like suffering then. But it does soon, after she clues in her husband and three grown children.
Still Alice tells the story of Alice and her family as they cope with the disease over the next few months. Two of Alice’s children use that time to take a test to determine whether they have the gene associated with the disease — one does, one does not. Alice’s husband spends a lot of that time away from Alice. Her youngest daughter is the one that uses this time to get to know her mother, especially since their relationship has always been somewhat strained.
The movie Still Alice does not stray far from the book. In fact, the way it’s filmed beautifully parallels the way the book is written. In the book, author Lisa Genova writes from Alice’s point of view. As the novel continues, the writing becomes more and more disorganized and confusing to keep in line with Alice’s brain and the effect Alzheimer’s has on it. In much the same way, part of the movie includes blurry, hazed shots — to help show what things look like through Alice’s mind. The movie also becomes disorganized toward the end. Certain plot points are not told to the viewer. We, instead, must figure it out ourselves, similar to the way an Alzheimer’s patient who can’t make sense of things would have to do. It’s messy. There are gaps in time. But that’s what it’s like inside the brain of an Alzheimer’s patient.
It goes without saying that Julianne Moore’s performance as Alice is both breathtaking and heartbreaking. She portrays that hazy glaze effortlessly — showing that Alzheimer’s is much more than just forgetfulness; it’s a state of desperate confusion and incapability to understand. It is difficult to see onscreen how careless some of her family members are, and Alice’s oldest daughter (Kate Bosworth) and husband (Alec Baldwin) portray that well. However, in the book, her husband does a lot of research on Alzheimer’s and still has a hard time coping. In the movie, we don’t see any of the research or willingness to try to understand. We mostly see her husband giving up on trying altogether.
But what both the movie and book have in common is the power to raise awareness, the power to make us feel, and the power to — hopefully — make a change.