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Away from Her

Directed by Sarah Polley
Canada, 2006 (fiction, 110 minutes, colour, English)
Also known as "An ihrer Seite", "Daleko od niej", "Egyre távolabb", "Kaukana poissa", "Lejos de ella", "Loin d'elle", "Longe Dela", "Lontano da lei"
Away from Her
Image: © Mongrel Media

Film Description:
"Away from Her is a screen adaptation of Alice Munro's short story, The Bear Came Over the Mountain. Married for 50 years, Grant and Fiona's life together is full of tenderness and humour, their serenity broken only by Fiona's references to the past and her increasingly evident memory loss. When Grant moves Fiona into a nursing home specializing in Alzheimer's disease, he is not allowed to visit for the first month so she can 'adjust'. When he sees her again, she has forgotten him and turned her affection to Aubrey, another resident. Heartbroken, Grant visits daily, bearing witness to the growing bond between Fiona and Aubrey. When Aubrey's wife, Marian, takes Aubrey home, Fiona becomes deeply depressed, and Grant embarks on his greatest act of self-sacrifice."
-- Telefilm Canada (source)

Film Description:
"Grant (Gordon Pinsent) and Fiona (Julie Christie) have been married for decades. [...] Now retired, they live comfortably in a house in the country, but their contentment is permanently disrupted when Fiona's memory starts to deteriorate. Determined not to saddle Grant with her declining health, she insists on going into a rest home—which only tears Grant apart."
-- Toronto International Film Festival (source)

Film Credits (partial):
Written by: Sarah Polley
Based on: "The Bear Came Over the Mountain," a short story by Alice Munro
Produced by: Atom Egoyan, Victoria Hirst, Daniel Iron, Doug Mankoff, Simone Urdl, Jennifer Weiss
Principal Cast: Gordon Pinsent, Julie Christie, Olympia Dukakis, Deanna Dezmari, Clare Coulter, Thomas Hauff, Alberta Watson, Grace Lynn Kung, Lili Francks, Andrew Moodie, Wendy Crewson, Judy Sinclair, Tom Harvey, Carolyn Heatherington, Melanie Merkosky, Kristen Thomson, Jessica Booker, Janet van de Graaf, Michael Murphy, Vanessa Vaughan, Catherine Fitch, Ron Hewat, Jason Knight, Nina Dobrev
Cinematography: Luc Montpellier
Film Editing: David Wharnsby
Music: Jonathan Goldsmith
Production Company: The Film Farm, Foundry Films Inc., Pulling Focus Pictures

Awards won by Away from Her

Notes about Away from Her


Quotes by the Director

"1 discovered Alice Munro's story ['The Bear Came Over the Mountain'] about five years ago and I thought it was the most moving love story I'd ever read. It's about a kind of love we don't often explore in film, between people who've been together for 40 years, who've been through disappointments and crises and come out the other side. I was captivated by that."
-- Sarah Polley (source)

"In a first feature, there is this temptation to do cartwheels, to make sure everyone sees every facet of your skill set. But it's not about you any more; it's about the story you're telling."
-- Sarah Polley (source)

Quotes by the Director [in French]

"La nouvelle d'Alice Munro L'ours qui traversa les montagnes m'avait bouleversée. J'ai eu tout de suite envie de l'adapter. C'est une romancière si honnête, capable d'explorer les zones d'ombre de ses personnages. Nul n'est blanc ou noir dans son univers."
-- Sarah Polley (source)

"Ma grand-mère était atteinte de démence sénile et mon oncle, ancien chroniqueur de hockey à la radio (qui m'a inspiré un des personnages), d'une maladie proche d'Alzheimer. Mais ce qui m'intéressait avant tout, c'était d'analyser comment un couple qui s'aime toujours et a résisté pendant presque un quart de siècle à l'usure du temps, aux petites trahisons et mesquineries du quotidien, pouvait ou non survivre à un passé décomposé, perdu, volatilisé."
-- Sarah Polley (source)

Quotes about Away from Her

"[Sarah Polley's] script adroitly rearranges Munro's scenes and dialogue when necessary, and fills in the characterizations of Marian and the plucky nurse Kristy in a way that not only makes them plum roles for Olympia Dukakis and Kristen Thompson but deepens the compassion of the drama and brings a novel's expansiveness to Munro's economically told tale without adulterating its texture."
-- Richard Alleva (source)

"The movie, [Sarah] Polley's feature debut, is a small-scale triumph that could herald a great career. In general, she works close to her actors, and is confident enough to let scenes remain ambiguous—the meanings build slowly, by accretion. But she also demonstrates an impressive feeling for the spiritual meaning of landscape, as when Fiona, on skis, finds herself isolated in the snow and, looking around at the open fields, experiences the terror of a life without signposts."
-- David Denby (source)

"One of many surprising qualities about Sarah Polley's film, Away from Her, based on a great story by Alice Munro, is this 28-year-old first-time director's ability to see the strange poetic element in Alzheimer's—not only see it but bring it into focus with hard, clear images, eloquently plain dialogue and poetic references that seem as natural in the film as the snowy southwestern Ontario fields."
-- Robert Fulford (source)

"[Sarah Polley's] directing flows and interweaves; and she has an enlarging quality of reticence, which makes key moments strong by not exploiting them. But her master touch is in evolving the chill, even on the sunniest days, that is enveloping Grant as he watches the cloud approach and Fiona equanimously welcoming it."
-- Stanley Kauffmann (source)

"Munro's story gets a canny, admirable adaptation from Sarah Polley, the accomplished Canadian actress making her feature directorial debut. Apart from being a film about old age from a woman in her late 20s, Away from Her is a film rich in paradoxes. Much of the film's style is dreamy, from the snow-covered Ontario landscapes suggestive of a blanket of forgetfulness, to Julie Christie's pale, intoxicating beauty, to the ambient musical score. Yet this is a story that's also spiked with suppressed anguish and unexpected emotional reversals."
-- Liam Lacey (source)

"One of the most powerful and yet unpretentious examinations of human bonding ever put to the screen, Away From Her is not only a remarkable achievement for a first-time feature director, it's easily one of the best Canadian films ever made."
-- Katherine Monk (source)

"[Away from Her's] greatest virtue lies in [Sarah] Polley's careful avoidance of sentimentality, showy cinematic style, feel-good jokes, or sublime images of nature—all common strategies in films of this type. [...] The film's few touches of humor have an undertone of sadness, and the quietly subdued imagery of snow and cross-country skiing is nicely used to suggest key themes—marriage, separation, aging, the end of a relationship, and the loss of memory."
-- James Naremore (source)

"There is great potential for torrential sentiment in this material, but it's to the movie's credit, not to mention that of the impeccable lead performances and [Sarah] Polley's smartly adapted script, that it's kept tightly capped. Not that the emotional force isn't there, it is: in the way Grant looks at Fiona as she drifts away from him, and it's in every moment that indicates a shared memory either utterly forgotten or suddenly retrieved."
-- Geoff Pevere (source)

"In finding a bridge between the documentary authenticity of traditional Canadian art film and the direct connection of popular cinema, [Sarah] Polley suggests a way forward for English-Canadian film [...]."
-- David L. Pike (source)

"The first feature written and directed by Sarah Polley, one of the most interesting actresses to come out of Canada in the past decade, [Away from Her] is by turns sharp and somber, alive to the lacerations of ordinary experience and quietly attentive to grand absurdities and small instances of grace."
-- A.O. Scott (source)

"The film [Away from Her] both significantly shifts the narrative balance of [Alice] Munro's tale and, through its use of space and landscape, tells a different story. The most obvious shift is its use of Fiona's voice, which in the film is imbued with the distancing irony of Munro's narration."
-- Sue Thornham (source)

Quote about Away from Her [in French]

"Polley signe une première oeuvre empreinte d'une forte dose d'humanisme, qui ne sombre jamais dans le pathos ou le mélodrame. [...] Sa mise en scène sobre s'attarde longuement au visage des personnages, scrute leur intériorité avec pudeur et retenue. On sent la profonde affection pour eux de la cinéaste."
-- Jean-Philippe Desrochers (source)

Publications by the Director about Away from Her

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