Away From Her is a heartbreaking film adapted from a beautifully crafted short story by Alice Munro. Julie Christie portrays Fiona, a woman with Alzheimers, who feels like she is disappearing. Grant, her husband of over forty years, watches powerlessly as she drifts away.
Driving home, he noticed that the swamp hollow that had been filled with snow and the formal shadows of tree trunks was no lighted up with skunk lilies. Their fresh, edible-looking leaves were the size of platters. The flowers sprang straight up like candle flames, and there were so many of them, so pure a yellow, that they set a light shooting up from the earth on this cloudy day. Fiona had told him that they generated a heat of their own as well. Rummaging around in one of her concealed pockets of information, she said that you were supposed to be able to put your hand inside the curled petal and feel the heat. She said that she had tried it, but she couldn't be sure if what she felt was heat or her imagination. The heat attracted bugs.
"Nature doesn't fool around just being decorative."
In the town where he used to work there was a bookstore that he and Fiona had visited once or twice a year. He went back there by himself. He didn't feel like buying anything, but he had made a list and picked out a couple of the books on it, and then bought another book that he noticed by chance. It was about Iceland. A book of nineteenth-century watercolors made by a lady traveler to Iceland.
Fiona had never learned her mother's language and she had never shown much respect for the stories that it preserved--the stories that Grant had taught and written about, and still did write about, in his working life. She referred to their heroes as "old Naj" or "old Snorri." But in the last few years she had developed an interest in the country itself and looked at travel guides. She read about William Morris's trip, and Auden's. She didn't really plan to travel there. She said the weather was too dreadful. Also--she said--there ought to be one place you thought about and knew about and maybe longed for--but never did get to see.
First-time director Sarah Polley's wrote an essay, On Marriage and Fiction, which appeared in a recent issue of Zoetrope All-Story about making the significance of the story, The Bear Came Over the Mountain, which inspired the film.