By John H. Foote
For one of the most beautiful love stories to come to the screen, Julie Christie was nominated as Best Actress, and Sarah Polley received a nominated for her Screenplay Adaptation. When Daniel Day-Lewis accepted the New York Film Critics Award for best Actor for his riveting performance in There Will Be Blood (2007) he mentioned Gordon Pinsent’s lead performance in Away from Her, bringing the film further attention. The film would dominate the Genie Awards (formerly Canada’s Oscars) sweeping the major categories and armed with rave reviews it did very well for such a movie at the box office.
The prime creative force of this gem was Canadian actress, director and screen writer Sarah Polley, a familiar face as an actress, this being though her first feature film directorial effort.
She did everything just right, it is a flawless film, acted with striking purity and directed beautifully.
Fiona (Christie) has Alzheimer’s and is struggling with it at home, forgetting where things go after they are used, and forgetting her way home when out cross-country skiing. Her husband Grant (Pinsent) grows concerned but is not expecting her solution, to check herself into a long-term care facility as to not be a burden on her husband. Once checked in they cannot see one another for three months and when he returns to visit his wife, she has forgotten him and appears to be in love with another man. Is it real? Or is Fiona punishing him for an affair he had in their past with a much younger student? It certainly appears real.
He is advised to let the affair run its course, Fiona may wake one day and forget all about her new lover. Grant takes up with his wife’s lover’s wife, portrayed by Olympia Dukakis, and they strike a friendship with sexual benefits, but she knows he can never love her like he loves his wife. That Grant does this, steps back and lets his wife have what she needs is a striking show of love for her because it must be killing him as his affair wounded her so long ago.
Polley, being an actor and a very fine one, must have known, inherently how to bring the very best out of her performers, because their performances are truly breathtaking. Unforced, unhurried, they seem to be in a documentary film, creating life as it unfolds with all its imperfections. Both actors, legends in their homelands, praise Polley for her fine work as a director, and many felt, me included she should have been a nominee for best director.
Such purity on screen is rare, but Polley has been seeking that kind of realism her entire life. No surprise she delivered a masterpiece.
John H. Foote is a well-recognized Canadian film critic/historian who has been an active critic for 30 years. His deep love for the movies began at a very young age. He began his career as co-host of the popular TV show Reel to Real where he remained for nine years. While on TV he began dabbling in education, eventually ascending to Director of the Toronto Film School, where he also taught film history. After leaving the college to care for his wife, he returned to teaching at Humber College where he taught both Film History and Method Acting Theory. John has written two books: “Clint Eastwood – Evolution of a Filmmaker” and the upcoming “Spielberg – American Film Visionary”. He is currently working on two books, one about the films of the seventies and another on the films of Martin Scorsese. Through his career he has worked in TV, radio, print and the web. John has interviewed everyone in the industry (more than 300 interviews) except Jack Nicholson, he says sadly. Highlights include Martin Scorsese, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep Robert Duvall, Jane Fonda, Francis Ford Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow.