Away from Her

Saturday, March 17th, 2007 | All Things, Arts, Film

This week, MoMA presents “Canadian Front 2007“: eight New York premieres of new and recent features made in Canada, organized by the museum’s Department of Film, and presented in cooperation with Telefilm Canada.

This afternoon, I attended a screening of Away From Her, the feature-length directorial debut of Canadian actress Sarah Polley. Polley directed a short film, Don’t Think Twice, in 1999, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival; her second short, I Shout Love, won the Best Live Action Short Genie in 2002.

Polley is as well known for her political activism as for her acting talent; on hiatus from acting in the mid-1990s, she was involved with the Democratic Socialist Party, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, and the anti-nuclear group Canadian Peace Alliance, losing two back teeth in a scuffle with police during an anti-Conservative rally at Toronto’s Queen’s Park in 1995.

Away from Her is based on award-winning Canadian writer Alice Munro’s short story “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” from her 2001 collection Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage. The film is produced by Jennifer Weiss (who also produced In Between Days), Simone Urdl, Daniel Iron and Victoria Hirst; Atom Egoyan, who directed Polley in Exotica (1994) and The Sweet Hereafter (1997), served as Executive Producer.

Polley’s debut is a tender exploration of the obligations and pain of marriage. Gordon Pinsent and the eternally lovely Julie Christie star as Grant and Fiona, a couple whose 44-year marriage is tested when Fiona begins to suffer from Alzheimer’s and decides to move into a nursing home. Over the course of her first month’s stay, during which new residents are forbidden visitors, Fiona loses virtually all memory of her husband and begins to develop a romance with a fellow nursing home resident. Heartache ensues.

The film is a low-key, intelligent, and sensitive study of Alzheimer’s and its ramifications. Guilt and shame come to color Grant’s efforts to care for his wife – their seemingly perfect marriage has had its history of romantic betrayals – and through these trials, he eventually grasps the true meaning of selfless love. His self-discovery, which comes as his wife retreats into her own hazy world, is at turns poignant and harsh, funny and ironic.

The audience members – among them, Lili Taylor with whom I stood on line outside the theater — seemed to respond well to the film; towards the end, the theater was filled with the sounds of their sniffles and sighs. Variety  named Polley one of their 10 Directors to Watch.

The MoMA Sculpture Garden under snow:

MoMA Sculpture Garden

MoMA Sculpture Garden

MoMA Sculpture Garden

There are no comments just yet.

Go for it ...