Get ‘Away’ for Memorable Love

More realistic and far-reaching than ‘The Notebook,’ the celebrated film ‘Away From Her’ is a quiet yet poignant study not only of love, but also of the painful struggles that accompany long-lasting relationships. The beautifully made love story depicts Grant (Gordon Pinset) and Fiona Andersson (Julie Christie), a couple married for almost 50 years, coming to terms with the onset of Fiona’s Alzheimer’s disease.
The film opens with a calm Canadian winter and proceeds with scenes of the couple skiing side-by-side, cooking together and reading to each other, to suggest a loving, seasoned relationship, which makes it all the more heartbreaking when Fiona’s memory starts to go. She ultimately makes the decision to be admitted to Meadowlake, an assisted-living facility. For the first time in their 44 years of marriage the couple must be apart for 30 days because of Meadowlake’s visiting policies. When Grant finally visits Fiona, she has forgotten about her husband and the life they once had together. She is now attached to Aubrey, another resident of Meadowlake.
‘Away From Her’ is ingeniously cast. Experienced actors Christie and Pinsent are remarkably believable as the enchanting couple. Fiona is not a helpless victim of the disease, nor does she become a raving lunatic. Rather, Christie plays the part of an attractive, sharp-witted woman who continues to make her own decisions even when facing a debilitating disease. Pinsent presents the perfect contrast to Fiona’s character. His vulnerability and quiet persistence make him a very complex character to whom audiences cannot help but relate. Kristen Thomson plays Kristy, Grant’s confidante and the head nurse at Meadowlake. Not to be outshone by the older actors, Thomson’s performance is mature and engaging.
While the film is filled with emotional scenes of romance and heartbreak, it does not forget to make us laugh once in a while. Kristy explains to Grant that one Meadowlake resident used to be a play-by-play sports announcer and continues to narrate his life as he makes his way through the facility. One scene shows a nurse leading him down a hall while he announces, ‘There’s an elevator on the right, and now we’re heading down the hall.’
More memorable than the humor is the emotionally stirring dialogue. Although it is a story about an older couple dealing with a specific disease, everyone can relate to the problems with love and life that the film poses. In the crucial scene where Grant drives Fiona to Meadowlake, she recalls a rocky time in their relationship, stating, ‘People want to be in love all the time. What a liability.’
‘Away From Her’ is directed by Canadian filmmaker and actress Sarah Polley (‘The Adventures of Baron Munchausen’), who is only 27 years old and a few years into her own marriage. Polley demonstrates great skill in her ability to direct such a moving and believable account of a relationship far beyond her years. Her film proves that love stories do not have to be saturated with romantic clich