Based on a novel by neuroscientist Lisa Genova starring Julianne Moore as Alice, a professor of linguistics who, after becoming forgetful of words and on one occasion of her whereabouts, is told she will suffer Alzheimer’s disease. Still Alice follows the emotional impact on herself and her family. Her husband is played by Alec Baldwin. Her daughter Lydia (Kirsten Stewart) learns there is a likelihood of her being a future sufferer. Alice becomes increasingly helpless as the disease takes hold.
Back in the ’80s and ’90s there were films about social issues such as domestic violence and depression and these were dealt with in an often bland fashion. Given our supposed advances since then in cultural sensitivity Still Alice manages to look like Hollywood looking after it’s own. It’s fortunate that Alice is affluent and surrounded by caring academic liberals who are all smart, and of course, beautiful. The prospects for those of lower status, or the poor, would be so much grimmer thus unfit for mainstream viewing. Given these limitations, the film just about manages to convey the menace to domesticity in the way of thrillers. You get the early scenes of domestic bliss (usually the family has just moved into a new home) and then the threat arises. It’s a neat way of melodramatizing for a two hour production. The cold panic in loss of memory and control are reasonably shown, and the film largely avoids the trap of facile sentimentality that you might get in a film about cancer, but only just.There is poetic acknowledgement of the role of memory in identity and of course the loss of this is the horror. There is a quote from the poet Elizabeth Bishop in the speech Alice gives about possible responses to its onset. Alice arranges for her suicide when the disease takes over. Leaving the shower gel in the fridge is a startling sign of the disease. Still Alice avoids the physical effects (except for incontinence because of not being able to find the bathroom), so is this an evasion of a responsibility to deal with reality? Emotional coping is what the family has to offer but of course we can’t know the subjective reality of Alzheimer’s. There is need to go further in this subject.