What must it be like to realize that you no longer connect to the world around you; that one’s footing is untethered? That everything is unknowable, but yet has a tinge of familiarity. The present is a labyrinth of disassociation; we are floating in an ether where we futilely shadow box to gain mastery of the seemingly simple task of being oneself. STILL ALICE attempts very straightforwardly to depict the mesmerizingly desolate story of Dr. Alice Howland - a renowned Professor of Linguistics at Columbia University - whose field of study deals with words and communication - and the ironic turn her life takes, as she realizes that she is slowly losing the ability to access the power of language and memory - the underpinnings of books, years of study and exploration are now desperately failing her. Alice at the age of 50 has been diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s disease.
A beautiful performance by Julianne Moore as Alice - a woman, heroic in her efforts to create strategies to navigate the abyss. Alice is a warrior in a fight she knows is un-winnable; filaments of who she was, and who she is slowly becoming to her family and professional colleagues, exist at the core of this daunting drama. What makes this film so personally harrowing is the fact that we all can empathize with the possibility of being in a similar situation sometime in the future and even in the present. Those moments when a name slips away from our tongue and gets knotted up in our brain refusing to reveal itself; when we blindly stare at the computer and wonder what is this blank slate we are so intently gazing at; or finding oneself in the middle of a street momentarily wondering how we got there and in which direction should we transverse.
Alice never becomes an “empty vessel.” There are remnants of what is “still Alice.” Expressions of a parent’s love, compassion, as well as past familial conflicts are never entirely erased; glimpses of the poetry of longing and physical touch come to light to surprise those who thought Alice had all but disappeared into the void. A searing honesty that refuses to cover up the truth of her situation prevents this movie from being insipidly maudlin, and reinforces the admiration we feel for this courageous woman who is valiantly fighting to preserve her mind from oblivion.