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Heroes of the Zeroes: Away From Her

by on January 24, 2010
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Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films from 2000 to 2009.

“Away From Her”
Rated PG-13

We know old age is an onslaught awaiting us, against which even rigid preparations sometimes stand no chance. No one dreams of the twilight that transpires in “Away From Her,” but, in its words, it’s not bad luck. It’s just life. You can’t beat life.

A tenderly told tragedy about the erosive effect Alzheimer’s Disease has on marital memories, Sarah Polley’s 2007 film avoided movie-of-the-week sap at all turns.

Instead, it contained piercing character- and theme-driven nuances expected of an actor-turned-director. Known for work in “Go” and 2004’s “Dawn of the Dead,” Polley made her feature-length directorial and screenwriting debut with this film.

Julie Christie’s turn as the Alzheimer’s-afflicted Fiona earned an Oscar nomination. But Gordon Pinsent’s realistically understated, stoic turn as Grant — her husband of 44 years — achieved a heartbreaking intimacy akin to live theater.

Fiona’s malady starts with putting pans in the freezer and progresses to a care facility, which Grant cannot visit for the first 30 days. When Grant returns to a lover who no longer recognizes him, he realizes marital affection sometimes truly tests the vows we utter.

Polley’s script uncovers moments of delicate comedy in Grant’s desperation to resume normal life as well as touching supporting turns from Olympia Dukakis (as the wife to another patient) and Kristen Thompson (as a nurse in whose straight talk Grant finds solace).

It’s sad to think so, but life eventually strands and maroons everyone. “Away From Her” thoughtfully recognized the comfort of finding the grace in getting there.