When you get a chance, rent actor/writer/director Sarah Polley’s acclaimed movie, Away From Her, starring Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent. Ms. Christie was nominated for a Golden Globe and will probably get an Oscar nod as well, so you’ll be hearing a lot about this film which chronicles how a woman, a spouse and eventually a marriage, slowly succumb to Alzheimer’s. It’s an amazingly subtle and intelligent movie with superb performances.
Yet, sometimes when I’m watching a movie, even a great movie, I get distracted by the actors on screen. For example, a sex scene with an anorexic actress makes me anxious. I’ll start counting her ribs and wonder how she can simulate sex with such sharp and pointy hip bones without injuring the actor on top of her and I’ll stop paying attention all together. Or if an actor has too many moles, I’ll count them in lieu of listening to his dialogue. I must say with this film I was so taken aback by Ms. Christie’s beauty that often times I stopped paying attention and had to rewind a scene.
The fact that Julie Christie is beautiful isn’t anything new so I was confused as to why I found her so distracting. Then I realized that I was seeing something onscreen that I’m not used to seeing. I got to see a beautiful and sexy 67-year-old playing a beautiful and sexy 60-something-year-old and frankly, it caught me by surprise.
Christie’s face, actually matches her neck and her hands. This face, free from botox, actually moved when she emoted. Her real-life wrinkles, evidence of a life well-lived, allowed me to connect with the character deeply. To play someone that is slowly losing her mind, you must look stunned and confused while trying not to look lost – something a face full of botulism just wouldn’t have been able to do.
In the movie, Christie’s character, Fiona, states, I think I may be beginning to disappear, as she is keenly aware of her mental decline and how it will inevitably progress. Interestingly enough, actresses like Christie, due to Hollywood’s unrealistic portrayals of beauty, usually do disappear. Thus seeing her for 110 minutes was quite exhilarating.
I believe that you must see what it is that you’re trying to create if you want to make it happen. Likewise, as women age we also must have the luxury of seeing ourselves on screens large and small and in the pages of magazines, not just in Dove commercials. We must see realistic bodies and wrinkles and age spots and neck waddles and allow their beauty and poignancy to be revealed to us. We must see the change we will inevitably be if we are to transform into it with any grace at all.
So kudos to you, Sarah Polley. It’s movies like this one and an actress like Christie that takes women one step closer to being fully invested in themselves as is at any age rather than becoming like Fiona, wandering around looking for something – but you can’t quite remember what that something is.