Sunday, 24 January 2016

STILL ALICE, Strong Portrayal of Dignity in Early Onset Alzheimer's

by Guest Blogger Maria Theresa

Alzheimer's doesn't just change the lives of its sufferers, but the lives of their family and friends as well. Those who witness the decline of someone affected by the illness typically expend a great amount of time, money, emotional and physical energy caring for their loved ones. Still Alice (2014), a riveting movie about early-onset Alzheimer's, depicts the many aspects of living with the disease and caring for someone who has it.



In the film, Julianne Moore plays Dr. Alice Howland, a linguistics professor who starts to notice that something is wrong with her memory around her 50th birthday. After a positive diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer's, Alice struggles to cope with her rapid decline, and her family -- husband Dr. John Howland, played by Alec Baldwin, and her three grown children -- struggle seeing the woman they once knew not only lose herself but her memory of them as well.



Films that cover the subject of Alzheimer's usually show the emotional and physical toll the disease takes on those who have it, but what is often kept off-screen are the heart-wrenching indignities that come along with being an Alzheimer's patient. There are several moments in Still Alice that leave the audience feeling uncomfortable, but these scenes do depict the truth of what actual Alzheimer's patients go through. In one such scene, Alice forgets where the bathroom in her own home is located, and accidentally wets herself. In another part of the movie, Alice visits her daughter, Anna, in the hospital after she has given birth to twins. While in awe over the babies, Alice doesn't recognize who Anna is. This is especially heartbreaking as Anna herself tested positive for the Alzheimer's gene, and the audience is well aware that she has a significant chance of suffering the same fate as her mother.
The choice made by directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland to include the raw side of Alzheimer's that strips patients of their dignity was definitely bold. Through every step of her decline Alice strives to hang onto herself and remain, as the film's title states, "still Alice". Ultimately, she fails to hold onto the person she used to be, but for the movie to be in any way realistic this is how things needed to play out. All forms of Alzheimer's steal a patient's memories, personality, and former life. But not only are those living with the disease affected, it often drastically alters the lives of family members and caregivers as well.

Alice's husband, John, largely outsources his role as a caregiver due to his demanding career as a physician. In this respect, Alice is quite fortunate as many Alzheimer's patients don't have the financial wherewithal to afford excellent full-time care. Alice's eldest daughter, Anna, and her son, Tom, check-in with their mother as much as they can, but are unable to be day-to-day caregivers because of their own personal and professional commitments. This scenario is something that is much more common in the lives of Alzheimer's patients, who need increasing amounts of care as the disease progresses.

Alice is once again more fortunate than many actual Alzheimer's patients, as her youngest daughter, Lydia, is willing and able to temporarily put her acting career on hold and move across the country to care for her. This act of love combined with the work of her dedicated professional caregiver, and financial stability provided by her family's wealth, guarantee Alice the best possible palliative care that she can get.

These financial and familial advantages aside, the film sends an important message: no matter how much money or support one has, Alzheimer's inevitably takes the same toll on each and every person who has the disease. Still Alice (available on Xfinity and DTV) has been praised as an excellent portrayal of the disease by the Alzheimer’s community, and is an excellent film to watch by viewers directly involved Alzheimer's doesn't just change the lives of its sufferers, but the lives of their family and friends as well. Those who witness the decline of someone affected by the illness typically expend a great amount of time, money, emotional and physical energy caring for their loved ones. Still Alice (2014), a riveting movie about early-onset Alzheimer's, depicts the many aspects of living with the disease and caring for someone who has it.


In the film, Julianne Moore plays Dr. Alice Howland, a linguistics professor who starts to notice that something is wrong with her memory around her 50th birthday. After a positive diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer's, Alice struggles to cope with her rapid decline, and her family -- husband Dr. John Howland, played by Alec Baldwin, and her three grown children -- struggle seeing the woman they once knew not only lose herself but her memory of them as well.

Films that cover the subject of Alzheimer's usually show the emotional and physical toll the disease takes on those who have it, but what is often kept off-screen are the heart-wrenching indignities that come along with being an Alzheimer's patient. There are several moments in Still Alice that leave the audience feeling uncomfortable, but these scenes do depict the truth of what actual Alzheimer's patients go through. In one such scene, Alice forgets where the bathroom in her own home is located, and accidentally wets herself. In another part of the movie, Alice visits her daughter, Anna, in the hospital after she has given birth to twins. While in awe over the babies, Alice doesn't recognize who Anna is. This is especially heartbreaking as Anna herself tested positive for the Alzheimer's gene, and the audience is well aware that she has a significant chance of suffering the same fate as her mother.
The choice made by directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland to include the raw side of Alzheimer's that strips patients of their dignity was definitely bold. Through every step of her decline Alice strives to hang onto herself and remain, as the film's title states, "still Alice". Ultimately, she fails to hold onto the person she used to be, but for the movie to be in any way realistic this is how things needed to play out. All forms of Alzheimer's steal a patient's memories, personality, and former life. But not only are those living with the disease affected, it often drastically alters the lives of family members and caregivers as well.

Alice's husband, John, largely outsources his role as a caregiver due to his demanding career as a physician. In this respect, Alice is quite fortunate as many Alzheimer's patients don't have the financial wherewithal to afford excellent full-time care. Alice's eldest daughter, Anna, and her son, Tom, check-in with their mother as much as they can, but are unable to be day-to-day caregivers because of their own personal and professional commitments. This scenario is something that is much more common in the lives of Alzheimer's patients, who need increasing amounts of care as the disease progresses.

Alice is once again more fortunate than many actual Alzheimer's patients, as her youngest daughter, Lydia, is willing and able to temporarily put her acting career on hold and move across the country to care for her. This act of love combined with the work of her dedicated professional caregiver, and financial stability provided by her family's wealth, guarantee Alice the best possible palliative care that she can get.


These financial and familial advantages aside, the film sends an important message: no matter how much money or support one has, Alzheimer's inevitably takes the same toll on each and every person who has the disease. Still Alice (available on Xfinity and DTV) has been praised as an excellent portrayal of the disease by the Alzheimer’s community, and is an excellent film to watch by viewers directly involved with the illness, as well as those who want more insight into early-onset Alzheimer's.
Maria is a freelance writer currently living in Chicago. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a minor in Communication. She blogs about environmentally friendly tips, technological advancements, and healthy active lifestyles.

Post a Comment