STILL ALICE, starring Julianne Moore


Still Alice is a poignant look into the world of Alzheimer’s disease. Alice (Ms. Moore) is a linguistics professor at Columbia who experiences annoying memory lapses on a few separate occasions. As time passes, these lapses intensify and the time between them shortens. She sees a neurologist, who, after the relevant tests, diagnoses her with early-onset Alzheimer’s. The movie follows Alice through the next year or so as navigates her illness with determination and courage.

We also follow her family as they support and care for Alice. Alec Baldwin gives a touching portrayal of Alice’s husband John, a science professor/researcher at Columbia. I appreciated the struggle John has: not only is he solely responsible for arranging her care, he also has to make a living, and that responsibility leads him to make a choice that many people I know would judge harshly.

But the thing is, we can’t know ahead of time how we will react to tragedy. Not everyone is the same. People respond differently in times of stress and loss, and that’s okay. John makes provision for Alice to be cared for while at the same time pursuing his very important work.

This opens up the discussion of when it is ethically acceptable to put a terminally ill spouse in a care facility, or when it is ethically acceptable to move along with your life if the person you are married to doesn’t know who you are. I know the pat answer is that married is married and that you must never ever separate no matter what, but I also think that there is a place for grace to be extended to the healthy spouse. (And yes, I’m aware of the seminary president–no need to send me the link.) Again, not everyone is the same. Not everyone can do what you think you would or could or should do in a given situation. Sometimes, maybe, a person needs to get away so that he can breathe and remember he is a person.

Kristen Stewart plays Alice’s daughter Lydia with that same unemotional flat face we all know and wish we loved. I’m not a fan of hers in anything I’ve seen her in, but I suppose there’s something to be said for flat-and-unemotional if you’re a young girl who has to give up her dreams of Hollywood to move home to New York City to care for your dying mother. I wish she would have smiled occasionally, if only to make her mother happy.

Overall, this is a very beautiful movie and would, I think, be helpful to anyone who wants to learn about Alzheimer’s.

Not that we need a reason to see a movie. I see movies because I like to go to movies. I like the experience of going out, sitting in the big dark room, and being told a story. This one is definitely worth the outing, and I do recommend it.

Of course, you can’t see a movie like this without wondering what it would be like to lose your memories, your ability to recognize your children. You also wonder how your family would respond. It might not be a bad idea to see this movie with whoever your relevant person is and then talk about what each of you would hope for were a debilitating illness such as Alzheimer’s to come knocking.