Alice works as a linguistics professor at Columbia University and is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in her fifties. As someone who defines herself by her intellect, she takes it especially hard. In the beginning, she uses organization to cope with her worsening symptoms, but as time progresses that ceases to be enough. Her husband (Baldwin) helps her to the best of his abilities, and is written as a character that truly wants to make things better for his wife, but it just simply unable to do so. Stewart plays her daughter, Lydia, and her performance is what you expect if you have ever seen a film with Kristen Stewart. The character is slightly awkward and seems physically unsure of herself, much the way Stewart comes off in everything. It doesn’t detract from the film, however, as in this instance, those are perfectly natural responses to a disabling mental condition.
Moore is the standout performance, showing the pain and loss that Alice suffers as she loses her own mind and goes through the grieving process, only she is grieving for the loss of herself. The confusion, the sadness, and the loss of the very thing that gave her self-worth are all visible in Moore’s performance, even as Alice reaches the point where she is no longer aware enough to realize her own loss.
Telling the story from Alice’s perspective adds to the emotional impact of the film. There is a moment when Alice and her husband are at their beach house and Alice gets lost in the house that is a painful standout moment.
Throughout the movie, Alice writes notes to herself on her phone, one in particular that runs through to a pivotal and painful climax.
The movie is very well done, but it is a sad story, something which should be expected going into a film about a person suffering from Alzheimer’s. The performances are great, and make you really fear the disease, with her family members showing their helplessness and confusion in response to Moore’s loss. The relationship between Alice and Lydia shows the final progression, as it begins as a relatively normal mother-daughter relationship and devolves into Lydia becoming the caretaker for Alice instead of the other way around.
The film, for which Moore won the Academy Award for Best actress, is worth watching, but wait until you’re in a serious or contemplative mood or it could wear you down emotionally.
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