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Grant and Fiona Anderson have been married for forty-four years. Their marriage has been a generally happy and loving one although not perfect due to some indiscretions when Grant was working as a college professor. Fiona has just been admitted to Meadowlake, a long term care facility near their country home in southwestern Ontario, because her recent lapses of memory have been diagnosed as a probable case of Alzheimer's disease. She and Grant made this decision together, although a still lucid Fiona seems to have made peace with the decision and her diagnosis more so than Grant. With respect to the facility, what Grant has the most difficulty with are what he sees as the sadness associated with the facility's second floor - where the more advanced cases are housed - but most specifically the facility's policy of no visitors within the first thirty days of admission to allow the patient to adjust more easily to their new life there. Based on what he sees when he is finally able to ... Written by
This is a story about Alzheimer's Disease (AD), its effect on those who suffer from it, and, principally, the difficulties that it poses for relatives who see their loved one decay mentally before death. Julie Christie plays Fiona, a woman whose dementia progresses rather rapidly. Her husband, Grant, is dejected with their predicament as Fiona is moved to a specialized facility and within it between wards dealing with patients with differing levels of impairment.
The depiction of dementia through the character of Fiona and other patients around her is good but not excellent. From my, avowedly limited and not professional, experience with AD-afflicted close and distant relatives, numerous visits to a number of nursing homes -- from the fancy to the abject -- and long hours roaming the often depressing corridors of the wards observing the behavior of old folks whose minds had gone potty, I believe I picked inaccuracies in the behavior of Fiona and her fellow seniors that threw me off. It is not uncommon at the early stages of AD to think that the person may be pretending. Grant thinks that way too at first. I had to agree with him. I had trouble accepting an AD sufferer at the advanced stage of not recognizing a loved one of more than forty years still displaying a keen short-term memory capacity. Could it be that Fiona what exacting some kind of revenge on Grant past dalliances?
The depiction of nursing homes and the commentary about AD is accurate. Sarah Polley has clearly spent time visiting such places. From what I understand, she had to deal with her own mother's dementia for about five years. She has first hand experience. The only thing missing in the film, is the sometimes lackadaisical attention by bored staff you see in real life. But, who knows, Canadian senior care may be a lot better.
The story has an important additional element in the form of Marian, played superbly by Olivia Dukakis, whose husband has advanced AD. She illustrates the wrenching decisions that families face. Send the demented relative to an expensive nursing home and go broke doing so or keep the patient at home and live progressively more hellish days. That aspect of the disease jives perfectly with the shared experience of Grant and Marian as they deal with spouses that become unable to reciprocate the love they are given.
The patients at the nursing home are actors. Despite their best efforts, I found the depictions short of perfect. It is really difficult to ape exactly the tentative and struggling moves of a frail body or the glazed eyes of a lost soul who no longer can comprehend the world.
The aforementioned criticisms should be considered minor. Sarah Polley's first venture as a director shows she has what it takes. That is helped by a very good adaptation to the screen of Alice Munro's short story. Overall the casting is excellent.
Funded by the Ontario province at a cost short of C$5M and shot in that province. Don't miss it.
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