MSRP: $27.98
RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes
Special Features:
• Deleted Scenes
• Feature Commentary with Actress Julie Christie
• Deleted Scenes Commentary with Director Sarah Polley

The Pitch

“The elderly must find new love, while their old love slowly dies before them.”

The Humans

Julie Christie, Olympia Dukakis, Gordon Pinsent, Michael Murphy and Wendy Crewson

The Nutshell

Films about terminal illness aren’t the biggest crowd pleasers. Unless you slap Julia Roberts into the mix and have her slip into a diabetic coma and die. But, you can only pull the Steel Magnolias trick once, before the Middle American housewife set gets tired of it. Then, they return back to their diet of Lifetime and Coke Zero…which leaves small independent Canadian films to die a lonely death at the Box Office.

The Lowdown

Alice Munro’s short story The Bear That Came Over the Mountain has been a personal favorite since I discovered it about five years ago. I plucked it out of a New Yorker magazine that I found lying around and decided to keep it with me. A quick trip to the scanner and I’ve got a new collection to my growing hard drive full of E-Books. It wasn’t until earlier this year that I revisited the story, upon hearing that one of my favorite actresses was making her directorial debut on an adaptation of the story.

I shall call you Avril and you will be my child bride.

Sarah Polley extends upon the world that Munro created with great finesse. She does this by firmly keeping the focus on the relationship built between Grant and Fiona. They’re a lovely married couple that does everything together, which makes it more painfully obvious that something is terribly wrong. Fiona starts to misplace things and she finds herself having to label every drawer in the house, so that she can have a way of remembering what goes where. A series of smaller incidents all lead up to the day that she can’t remember how to find her way home. Grant begins to feel guilty for every transgression he has committed against his wife during their 40+ year marriage. While trying to deal with Fiona’s illness, Grant tries to find a way to reconcile this affliction with what he could’ve done to stop it. When all of his answers lead nowhere, the only solution is to take his wife to a facility that could suit her needs.

Meadowlake is a safe haven for Fiona, but it’s also a sign of giving up for Grant. The act of putting Fiona somewhere outside of the home that they made is when Grant comes to realize that his partnership is ending and that saying goodbye has to begin. When Grant meets another woman dealing with her husband, he has to decide what is acceptable to him. Life doesn’t end at retirement and these two elderly people have to form a sense of connection that will last until their eventual deaths. But, that doesn’t wipe away the sense of guilt of being the one who survived the terrible maladies that are destroying their loved ones.

It just ended with a fade to black. Eight years of investment and it ends on a Journey song followed by a fade to black? Lord, kill me now.

Sarah Polley makes an impressive debut with her first feature. Crafting a tale of love and the deepest pain that comes with it isn’t the easy task. Polley handles such issues with a sense of maturity that I’m not sure who else could’ve done the job. There’s no sentimentality to the actions of Grant or his newly discovered love Marian. These people do what they do because it’s guttural human response to the impending sense of finality that accompanies death.

I don’t want to be the Oscar handicapper, but I hope that this film isn’t ignored around Awards Season. Away from Her is a motion picture that can push away the roving masses of moviegoers. There isn’t a happy ending, but there’s guilt and consequence. At this point, when you’re watching Grant having to decide to forsake his wife and venture onto greener pastures…you feel guilty. Transferring raw emotion onto the audience is enough to break the average viewer. What I’m asking is for the CHUD readers to accept the nature of the beast and watch this film.

Julie Christie is Pixelface in Uwe Boll’s Batman

The Package

Away from Her is a quiet DVD that uses its special features to accentuate the film. It’s a lost art that has slipped away in the era of Super Deluxe Editions and the push to include collectible toys with the most inappropriate of films. You don’t really need much more than Julie Christie and Sarah Polley examining the film.

In terms of presentation quality, the DVD features one of the best transfers I’ve seen on a 2007 release. The whites of the winter landscape are handled without any flaws, while soft Dolby 2.0 and 5.1 tracks service the nature of the film. This isn’t a set that’s going to blow your woofers away, but you shouldn’t be watching a film like this on a dedicated Home Theater. It’s a film best suited to a quiet little area, where you can actually think about what’s being presented to you.

9.0 out of 10