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Away from Her is a 2006 Canadianmarker film which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festivalmarker and also played in the Premier category at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. The feature-length directorial debut of Canadian actress Sarah Polley, the film is based on Alice Munro's short story "The Bear Came over the Mountain", from the 2001 collection Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage. It was executive produced by Atom Egoyan (Polley's director in both Exotica and The Sweet Hereafter) and distributed by Lionsgate Films.

The film stars Gordon Pinsent and Julie Christie as a couple whose marriage is tested when Christie's character begins to suffer from Alzheimer's and moves into a nursing home, where she loses virtually all memory of her husband and begins to develop a close relationship with another nursing home resident. The cast also includes Olympia Dukakis, Michael Murphy, Wendy Crewson, Alberta Watson, Lili Francks and Kristen Thomson. The film was shot primarily in Hamiltonmarker, with some location shooting in Brant and Kitchenermarker.

Synopsis

Grant (Pinsent) and Fiona (Christie) are a retired married couple living in rural Brant County, Ontario. Fiona begins to lose her memory, and it becomes apparent she suffers from Alzheimer's disease. Throughout the film, Grant's reflections on his marriage are woven with his reflections on his own infidelities, and influence his eventual decisions regarding Fiona's happiness.

When she feels she is becoming a risk to herself, Fiona decides to check into a nursing home, where one of the rules is that a patient can not have any visitors for the first 30 days, in order to "adjust". Wary of this policy, Grant agrees anyway, at the insistence of his wife whom he loves. During the drive to the facility, Fiona acknowledges Grant's past infidelity while he was a university professor. Despite the awkward situation, the couple makes love one last time before separating.

When the 30 day period ends, Grant goes to visit his wife again, only to find she has forgotten him, and turned her affections to Aubrey (Murphy), a mute man in a wheelchair who has become her "coping partner" in the facility.

While seeing his wife grow closer to Aubrey, Grant becomes an unhappy voyeur when visiting his wife at the nursing home. As time goes by and Fiona still does not remember him, Grant even wonders whether Fiona's dementia is an act meant to punish him for his past indiscretions. After some time, Aubrey's wife removes him from the home due to financial difficulties. This causes Fiona to sink into a deep depression, with her physical wellbeing also appearing to deteriorate. Grant is touched by this, and visits Aubrey’s wife Marian (Dukakis) in an effort to allow Fiona to see Aubrey again. He would rather see his wife happy with another man than miserable and alone. Marian initially refuses, but the meeting leads to a tentative relationship between her and Grant.

As time passes, Grant continues to visit both Fiona and Marian. He eventually moves out of his home and succeeds in taking Aubrey back to visit his wife. But in his "moment alone" before he brings Aubrey into Fiona's room, Fiona temporarily remembers him and the love she has for him. The film closes on their embrace.

Production

Sarah Polley was on a flight back from working on Hal Hartley's No Such Thing in Iceland when she read the Alice Munro short story "The Bear Came Over the Mountain" in The New Yorker. "I was so unbelievably moved by the story. I was just finished working with Julie Christie, and as I read, I keep seeing Julie's face in the character of Fiona," said Polley. "I am certainly not one of those people who reflectively thinks about adapting stories; I just want to leave the things I love alone. But this fascinated me. I read the story and I saw the film and I knew what the film was."

At that point of Polley's career, she had been acting since the age of six, and had written and directed two short films, Don't Think Twice and The Best Day of my Life. "For two years, I couldn't get the story out of my head and finally asked producer Danny Iron to look into getting the rights. I threw myself into writing, but it's daunting, taking on the work on somebody you respect so much. Alice Munro is one of my favorite writers because she looks right through things. The characters are all so flawed, so lovable in certain moments and so detestable in others. The adaptation didn't feel like a huge process because the film was embedded in that story."

Working alongside Polley were producers Jennifer Weiss, with whom she made her Genie-award winning short I Shout Love, and Simone Urdl, partners in the production company The Film Farm, and Daniel Iron of Foundry Films who produced Polley's first short Don't Think Twice. Atom Egoyan served as executive producer. Daniel Iron, having known Polley for a very long time, never doubted her ability to direct a feature. "I know how fiercely intelligent and diligent she is. She's been on sets since she was young and knows the craft better than any first time director. She shot-listed her first draft of the script."

Critical reception

The film received vastly favorable reviews from critics. As of January 6, 2008, the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 95% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 128 reviews. Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 88 out of 100, based on 36 reviews.

Top ten lists

The film appeared on many critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2007.



Awards and nominations

Genie Awards

The film won seven out of eight Genie Awards for which it was nominated, in the categories of Best Motion Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Pinsent), Best Actress (Christie), Best Supporting Actress (Thomson), Best Adapted Screenplay and the Claude Jutra Award for best feature film by a first-time director. The only award it did not win was for Best Editing, which it lost to Eastern Promises.

Away From Her was the third film in Genie Award history, after Le Confessional and Atanarjuat, to win both the Claude Jutra Award and the Best Picture Genie in the same year.

Academy Awards

The film received two Academy Award nominations for the 80th Academy Awards. Christie was nominated for Best Actress and Polley was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Others

Julie Christie won the 2007 Critics' Choice Award award for Best Actress, as well as the Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama award at the 65th Golden Globe Awards. She also won Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role at the 14th Screen Actors Guild Awards held in 2008, and was nominated for the Best Leading Actress BAFTA at the 61st British Academy Film Awards.

References

  1. Away from her best Drama of 2007
  2. BAFTA Awards database


External links




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