Day three: Still Alice (March, 12)

Today, something that happened to me at the movies years ago came to my mind. I had just watched A Beautiful Mind (2001) and I couldn't leave my chair. I was seated at the last roll, in a corner, and wasn't able to stop crying. It was so bad that the cleaning crew probably cogitated to call a mad house to take me. They left the room and I was still there, crying. When I got home, I emailed Professor John Nash telling how his story had a strong effect in me. Maybe he also pondered about the mad house for me.

At the end of Still Alice,  by Richard Glatzer, the feeling was very similar to the one in 2001. I had a knot in my throat and in my heart. I hid my face in my jacket and fat tears insisted in go down, even if I was very conscious of the people around me. For a start, I went to the screening with a friend, and despite being an old and good friend, I thought weird crying like that in front of her. So I stopped, got up at the end of the credits and put on a brave face. But all afternoon I was mourning, like Alice was a close friend and I just testify the loosing of her mind for Alzheimer's.

This proximity with a story and its characters is not a novelty for me. I always felt this way in the movies. For some time, it was not unusual that some friend, near me in a theater, looked straight at my tearful face and said: why are you like this? It is just a movie!!!! But for a time now I hadn't heard this exclamation - my friends must have adapted themselves to the strange way that I relate to films. 

And the truth is that cinema for me is life. Fiction can tell about aspects of real life in a way that facts are not able to. And today I thought how stories that depict people struggling with the loss of control of their own mind sensibilize me a lot. 

Julianne Moore won a best actress Oscar for her role in Still Alice. For that, the movie's plot is well known, so I'll talk about the story a little bit - it is not a big spoiler after all. Alice is a renowed linguistic professor at Columbia University (my dream university, by the way). She relies in her knowledge, in the capacity of her mind, in her memory. After all, she is a specialist in cognitive science. Until the day she sees herself loosing this capacity. Her diagnostic of Alzheimer's is a sentence of death in all her beliefs, and the movie transits around her dealing with the disease and her family's reactions. What they can or cannot accept. What it is acceptable to her. The increasing of the disease. The different aspects of dealing with a illness is there, and, at some point, she says that she is not Alzheimer's, and persists of not loosing herself.

But it is inevitable. All the knowledge, all her habilities, all the love of her family can't detain the desease's advance. And we testify Alice loosing herself more and more. 

I'm not a believer of full control of life. And I don't scare easily in front of adversities and illness. Of couse I suffer with the unpredictable. Of course I struggle when I'm sick. But I know how we are really not able to control everything, or anything actually, in our lives except how we choose to face it - in its adversity, happiness, unpredictability and so. But see someone loosing such a battle is heartbreaking for me. And so I spent all afternoon with a sad heart whilie doing my grocery shopping. Such a strong feeling in a casual task. 

Julianne Moore is great. Her Alice becomes a real person in her interpretation. Kirsten Stewart could use a better direction, her tic of sighing and trembling is still there - it was absent, though, in her performance in Clouds of Sils Maria, 2014(and maybe just for that amazing feature she won a César... Don't get me wrong, I like her, but this tic is too much sometimes). I was angry with the selfish husband played by Alec Baldwing, more when my friend told me that his character in the book is very supportive. Why screen writers see the need for changing the personality of the people in the stories they adapt to the cinema is always a mistery to me. 

All this talk was made to take your attention of my over the top reaction to the movie. But it is still with me, and probably it will be for a while. Like not only the good stories can be, but also those who tell us about things that we even realized yet.

Still Alice. Directed by Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland. Stars: Juliane Moore, Kirsten Stewart, Alec Baldwin. Writer: Richard Glatzer from the novel by Lisa Genova. US/France, 2014, 101 min., Dolby Digital, color (Cinema).

PS: Fragments: a bit of my sadness vanished when I met High Fidelity on cable tv. I love Nick Hornby's books, and this one in particular. And its soundtrack is always a good remembrance. 


  1. Watched this one last night. I too thought it was very sad and a beautiful, compelling story. However, unlike you, I didn't connect to it the way I hoped to. Somehow, the narrative didn't hook me up like I wanted to be hooked, don't know why. I felt really bad for her (didn't like Alec's character either, although he did a good job) and some scenes felt very real and moving – like the one where she peeks at the sign on her bracelet that reads "memory impaired", or when she wants to hold her grandchild and is confronted by the question "is this a good idea?", and specially when she tries to follow her instructions hidden in the "Butterfly" folder only to fail again and again. Very devastating, made me shed some tears for sure. But I didn't leave the cinema going through every aspect of the picture back and forth, as I so take pleasure in doing.
    That did happen to me when I watched "Wild" the other day, when you and I bumped into each other. My god. I did not expect such punch in the guts! I could not move during or afterwards. As the credits rolled up the screen, I remained seated, wishing to experience every scene, every monologue, every emotion once more. One of the quotes she shares in those notebooks by the fence posts along the Pacific Crest Trail says "You're not ready for the things you expect". In appreciating that quote, I thought "wow, I did expect to like this film... but never did I imagine it would speak to me in such depth". The struggle towards redeeming oneself is a steep road; but one that must be taken. Just beautiful. Also, editing played a substantial part in the story, I absolutely loved how the film was put together, it makes me want to read the book (it should have 100% been nominated for a Best Achievement in Editing award – bad call, Academy, tsc tsc).
    I've been wanting to share my thoughts on this film with you ever since that night. I don't know, maybe over the course of these 365 days you might feel like watching it again and writing about it. I'd like to read that.
    Now, I'm looking forward to watching "Cake", it has been the one I'm anticipating the most this year, and it finally comes out next month. Cannot wait.

    [ j ]

  2. Hey, Joe!!! So good seeing you here! Thanks for taking time to read the blog. Your opinions are very valuable to me :)

    How a narrative can hook us up is a mistery. Same species, different hearts, different souls, diverse minds... There's no way. Like happens with we two most of the times, we can find someone that has a very close view to things in the way that we see them. But a story is not the same for everybody, even when we get very close to that.

    Still Alice killed me, right there, at the movie theater. Wild did the same, in other aspects. Its a punch in the gut. In the soul, actually. I left my seat in a state that I cannot even start to describe. I'll watch it again, so we'll continue to talk :) And we could read the book at the same time, what do you think?

    Btw, do you remember which movie I was going to see that day?

    And regarding the Academy awards, let's talk about low expectations...

    (Cake is in my wish list too).