Away from Her is the rare film romance that assumes love grows more interesting, not less, as the years pass. The best evidence first-time director Sarah Polley offers for the strange beauty of a long, imperfect marriage is her close-up shots of Julie Christie's gorgeously etched face. (You'll never find a better case against Botox.) In Polley's adaptation of Alice Munro's short story The Bear Came over the Mountain, Christie, 66, is Fiona, a woman facing Alzheimer's disease with insight and wit alongside her grieving husband of 45 years, Grant (Gordon Pinsent). As the memory loss deepens, Christie fluidly navigates the rapids of Fiona's quicksilver personality from minute to minute, Fiona is frightened, flirtatious, resentful or wry.
After her sex-symbol days of Darling, Dr. Zhivago and Don't Look Now, Christie moved to a farm in Wales and for the past 30 years has been more devoted to politics than to acting. Answering questions by e-mail from London, Christie says the role was "an unexpected opportunity to share, in some imaginary way, this strange unknown new world" of Alzheimer's. "It helped that my character was so unusually clear-sighted at first about her quandary and that there was no solution to it." Christie credits Munro and director Polley with fashioning Fiona as a woman of courage and lucidity, but it took Christie's startling beauty and grace to give her flesh, and to force us to share her husband's grief as he lets her go.
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