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March 26th, 2017

Max’s View

Still Alice
***1/2

There is an old saying that my churchgoing office buddy Debbie likes to repeat, “All things work together for the good.”

Obviously that isn’t true.

For example, I was raised to root for the New York Jets and the New York Knicks. So after nearly 40 years, I have learned full well that sometimes life is disappointing, disgraceful, and unfair. For Knicks and Jets fans, things seldom work for the good.

Perhaps a better example is dementia. Watching a spouse or parent slowly lose her mind is one of the most terrible emotional trials a person can go through.

The everyday hassle of having to do all of the tasks – making money, doing errands, paying bills – that your ailing loved one can no longer take care of is only the beginning of the problem.

The bigger issue is that you need your loved one’s affection, companionship, and council as much as ever, but she can no longer provide it.

The situation is made even more brutal by the fact that your loved one is losing her eyesight and hearing, too, making it even harder for her to stay connected to reality.

You want desperately to respect her like you used to, but it becomes increasingly difficult when she can’t hold an intelligent conversation or even remember what you told her yesterday. It’s horrible to feel your admiration crumble into exasperation.

“Still Alice” is a powerful film about dementia. It’s well-acted and devastatingly sad.

Julianne Moore won the Best Actress Oscar last week for playing Alice Đ a college professor who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. When we meet her, she is being driven in a hired car to a speaking engagement, kicking her daughter’s butt in Words With Friends on the ride.

Before too long, she can’t remember appointments, names, or even where she is sometimes. “Still Alice” is kind of like a horror movie for aging adults. Except I’m pretty sure I’d rather get killed quickly by a psycho in a hockey mask than slowly lose touch with reality and become a burden on my family.

In the film’s most powerful moment, Alice’s daughter Lydia (“Twilight’s” Kristen Stewart) apologizes to her mother for an argument they had the day before. Lydia says she’s sorry even though she was in the right and even though Alice can’t remember what the argument was about. In that quiet, bittersweet moment, Lydia goes from being a frustrated daughter to an empathetic caretaker.

Sorry, Debbie, but it is perfectly clear that all things do NOT work together for the good. The illness of dementia is a solid example. I recommend “Still Alice” to families that are coping with Alz-heimer’s. It might help to learn that you are not alone in your struggle. I don’t recommend “Still Alice” to anyone else, though. It’s way too sad.

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