Dir: Sarah Polley. Canada. 110 mins
Sarah Polley's Away From Her is a lovingly wrought and heartfelt exploration of the end of a complicated relationship. The young Canadian actress has a reputation as a nuanced stalwart of the international indie film scene. That reputation is set for a dramatic transformation. Polley's accomplishment is all the more impressive given the challenge she set herself in adapting Alice Munro's short story The Bear Came Over The Mountain, a work that astonishes with its elliptical feints and seamless transitions, not to mention the clarity and texture of the prose.
But Polley found the ideal mediums in the faces of Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent.
A US sale may hinge on the Oscar potential of these two magnificent leads, as well as Polley's impressive script.
Polley has said she admired Munro's treatment of the elderly and was determined to depict old people as people, rather than the 'golden years' cliches.
For this is not a medical drama or an 'issue' story about how hard it is when a loved one is sucked away into a disease. Marketers will do well to emphasise the strong connection between the film and its literary inspiration.
After strong word of mouth and critical support in Toronto - where the film made its world premiere - the next great challenge in putting this demanding and engaging film before the audience it deserves will be in breaking through the ageism of our hard-bodied youth-obsessed culture.
No-one wants to die, but given that we must, a secure and happy home stretch is the most we can hope for. Or so Grant (Pinsent) must have imagined before his wife of 50 years, Fiona (Christie), began putting away the saucepan in the freezer rather than the cupboard. At first they laugh off her slips. But as those slips grow more frequent, Fiona - against Grant's increasingly fervent protestations - makes the decision to enter a rest home.
Fiona's transition from composed femme d'une certain age to in-patient is handled with admirable, if cruel, subtlety.
A second strand follows Grant, alone, driving towards a destination written on a scrap of paper.
As the film charts Fiona's decline, this second strand moves more slowly in linear time, ultimately allowing the two narratives to blend at the heart-breaking, but ultimately cathartic, conclusion.
The Film Farm
based on The
Bear Came Over The Mountain
by Alice Munro