Moore plays Dr. Alice Howland, an esteemed professor of linguistics who is shocked to discover that she is suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s disease, despite her young age. Breaking the news to her husband, John (Alec Baldwin) and three adult children, Anna (Kate Bosworth), Tom (Hunter Parrish) and Lydia (Kristen Stewart), the family attempt to come to terms with her devastating diagnosis, as Alice begins to show more symptoms of this tragic disease.
Though directing duo Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland are delving into a territory that requires little skill when it comes to triggering emotion, they’ve still done a commendable job in portraying what it means to somebody who is diagnosed. The pacing and structure is of a high-standard, with an array of sequences that are unbearable to sit through. Alzheimer’s is a disease that, while touched upon in films, is rarely the driving force and key narrative point – and to studiously get into the head of somebody suffering makes for an emotive, disquieting experience. It’s the loss of identity in particular that is a struggle to comprehend, as this venerable doctor, who has forged a triumphant career for herself studying language, is on the verge of losing that sense of control when it comes to what she can say, or think.
To further enhance this sentiment, Still Alice has a surrealistic feeling of sorts, as the edges of the screen are blurred somewhat, adding a dreamlike, almost ethereal sensation, which adds to Alice’s disorientation, unable to differentiate between what’s real and what’s not, to determine if what she perceives is tangible. However, sadly the subtle idiosyncrasies of the disease are deviated away from, as we delve into the realm of unashamed, Oscar fodder. What doesn’t help in this regard are the lapses in time, as we progress sometimes months at a time. As such, Alice’s regression feels rushed, and every time we catch up with her, her decline feels more palpable, more dramatic, whereas it’s actually the more subtle moments which are prove to be more poignant, and profound.
Nonetheless, the picture is saved by a phenomenal turn by Moore, who is so staggering empathetic and while the character deteriorates, she displays a remarkable ability to be so vacant behind the eyes, so lost. However – and it’s difficult to determine if this is a result of Moore’s performance being so good that it’s more perceptible, but sadly the supporting roles (Stewart aside) are not up to her standard, which is of great detriment to the overall story. This is particularly the case for Baldwin, playing a character who is wildly unsympathetic, and a little too passive. A shame because he was excellent staring opposite Blanchett in her Oscar winning performance last year. He needs to thank his agent anyhow, because he’s landing husband roles to mighty fine actresses at present.
There remains much to be admired about this piece, though regrettably when the closing credits begin, the a sense of frustration is more paramount, with an underwhelming conclusion that sends the viewer away without a feeling of finality. It’s too abrupt, and though evidently the point, it’s difficult not to crave a greater sense of closure – particularly in a film that has truly taken you through the motions, and through an entire packet of tissues.