"Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! It is an ever-fixed mark ... "
-- William Shakespeare, Sonnet 116
Grant (Gordon Pinsent) and Fiona (Julie Christie) have been married for 44 years; they read and cook and laugh and walk with the kind of long-shared, hard-fought joy that most of us can only imagine. Their love is a commitment, a shared process, integral to each of their selves. And one of them is slowly, sadly, slipping away. Fiona's not merely forgetful; she's confused, lost, dwindling ... and, horrifyingly, aware of exactly what's happening as Alzheimer's clots her brain with plaques and tangled neurons like hardened roots strangling the life from the tree they've nurtured. Hard decisions must be made; those will lead to even harder decisions. Directed by actress Sarah Polley (The Sweet Hereafter, Dawn of the Dead), Away from Her was adapted from an Alice Munro story by Polley herself; it's an astonishingly moving feature-length directorial debut. It manages to get fresh, bold performances from seasoned veterans Christie and Pinsent.
It also turns what could have been mawkish, rote TV-movie-of-the-week material into a truly engaging drama. Away from Her is that rarest kind of romantic drama -- one that doesn't infer that turning off your brain is the toll to be paid for letting your heart be moved. Fiona makes the decision to enter a permanent care home; it's for the best, she knows. Grant is heartbroken and especially torn over the care home's policy of 'no visitors' for the first 30 days so that new residents might settle into a new routine without confusion. When he returns, Fiona doesn't really seem to know who he is and has made close friends with fellow resident Aubrey (Michael Murphy), whose temporary stay in the facility has coincided with Fiona's first 30 days.