'Away' is a sparkling setting for Christie

Posted: April 13, 2007

Some people leap from frying pan into the fire. Fiona (Julie Christie) vaults from frying pan into freezer when she puts skillet into icebox, recognizing it as the onset of the Alzheimer's that will overwhelm her marriage of 44 years.

A remarkable character study from actress-turned-director Sarah Polley, Away From Her is a triumph for Christie, who like Helen Mirren and Diane Keaton, grows lovelier and more compelling with every performance.

But it's also a particular challenge for the animated actress as she is the vital presence who withers before us. (If Christie doesn't get an Oscar nomination, there is no justice). As Fiona gradually withdraws from the land of the sentient, her dancing eyes and that most expressive of faces look to be taken over by the Alzheimer's zombie occupying her body and disconnecting her from her husband, Grant.

He is movingly played by Gordon Pinsent who carries the picture with his soothing voice and anguished eyes that convey guilt, passion and heartbreak. How do you connect with one who has detached? How do you say goodbye to the love who doesn't recognize you?

Bring tissues.

Away From Her ***1/2 (out of four stars)

Written and directed by Sarah Polley, adapted from the short story, "The Bear Came Over the Mountain," by Alice Munro. With Julie Christie, Gordon Pinsent and Olympia Dukakis.

Running time: 1 hour, 50 mins.

Parent's Guide: NR (mature themes)

Playing at: 9:30 tonight and 4:45 p.m. Sunday at the Ritz Five.

Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or crickey@phillynews.com. Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at http://go.philly.com/flickgrrl


comments powered by Disqus