Still Alice: A Touching and Raw Portrayal of Alzheimer's Disease
Alzheimer’s is a devastating and life-changing illness for the patient, their family, and the caretakers. “Still Alice” is a gut-wrenching portrayal of a renowned linguistics professor who begins to forget words. Concerned about what is going on, Dr. Alice Howland (Julianne Moore) receives a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Alice struggles to stay connected to who she once was.
"Still Alice" is heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time. The close knit family dynamic is one that everyone touched by Alzheimer's will understand.
Maria Shriver, who is the producer, and many Alzheimer’s Association experts and volunteers (some who are living with Alzheimer's disease) worked hard to guide the script and the character development. Marie Carrilo, Ph.D., Alzheimer’s Association Chief Science Officer, was the adviser on the script to make sure the movie was scientifically accurate. And, Sandy Oltz, who has early-onset Alzheimer’s, provided Julianne Moore with an excellent understanding of her daily struggles.
The movie gives a frank portrayal of how devastating Alzheimer’s is to everyone involved.
Keith Oliver: A patient's perspective on Moore's portrayal
Diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's at the age of 54, Keith Oliver is coping with the diagnosis and making the most of the time he has. At first, Oliver says, he didn’t feel any different. He told his wife about the disease and gave her a positive take on the disease. His outlook? “One door closes, and another will open.” Now, however, Keith is afraid of being left on his own with no memory of who he once was.
“The film confronted each stage I’ve gone through, like a checklist,” Keith says. “It captured how dementia crept up on me, how it knocked my self-esteem and brought doubts into my mind before I even knew what I was dealing with. It captured how insidious the disease is, how it can subtly eat away at you. It captured how I tried to fight it, how I found coping strategies, how I tried to hide it. But her decline happens so quickly – I found that very difficult to come to terms with.”
Directed by Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer who has Lou Gehrig’s disease, Alice is an adaptation of Lisa Genova’s 2007 novel. Ms. Moore’s performance awarded her a Golden Globe, a Bafta and an Oscar nomination. She prepared for her part by discussing Alzheimer’s with those from the Alzheimer’s Association as well as patients diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s.
The film is as much about the misconceptions of Alzheimer’s as it is about family dynamics. Alzheimer's is the cause of up to 70% of dementia cases and no one quite understands why. Moore states, “I don’t think there’s enough information. I think an idea still stands that Alzheimer’s is all about memory. One of the things I found is that people often simply feel lost. Alzheimer’s is more akin to an ongoing panic attack where suddenly nothing has any reference. It’s like having to cut through fog every day.”
Ms. Moore’s analysis is spot on. Those who have Alzheimer’s are still living, breathing people, but they are confused and lost. They know something is not right, but they can figure out or fix what is wrong.
Read on to see what other patients have to say about Julianne Moore's portrayal in "Still Alice."
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