Away from Her
Away from Her is a 2006 Canadian independent drama film written and directed by Sarah Polley and starring Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent. Olympia Dukakis, Michael Murphy, Wendy Crewson, Alberta Watson, and Kristen Thomson are featured in supporting roles. The feature film directorial debut of Polley, it is based on Alice Munro's short story "The Bear Came Over the Mountain", from the 2001 collection Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage.
|Away from Her|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Sarah Polley|
|Produced by||Daniel Iron|
|Screenplay by||Sarah Polley|
|Based on||The Bear Came Over the Mountain|
by Alice Munro
|Music by||Jonathan Goldsmith|
|Edited by||David Wharnsby|
Echo Lake Productions
The Film Farm
|Distributed by||Capri Releasing|
Pulling Focus Pictures
Lionsgate Films (US)
|Box office||$9.1 million|
The story centers on a couple whose marriage is tested when the wife begins to develop Alzheimer's and moves into a nursing home, where she loses virtually all memory of her husband and begins to develop a close relationship with another nursing home resident.
Away from Her premiered at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival. It was theatrically released on May 4, 2007 and garnered critical acclaim, with critics praising Christie's performance and Polley's screenplay and direction. The film received two nominations at the 80th Academy Awards: Best Actress (for Christie) and Best Adapted Screenplay (for Polley). It also won seven Genie Awards, including Best Motion Picture.
Grant and Fiona are a retired married couple living in rural Brant County, Ontario. Fiona begins to lose her memory, and it becomes apparent she has Alzheimer's disease. Throughout the film, Grant's reflections on his marriage are woven with his reflections on his own infidelities, and influence his eventual decisions regarding Fiona's happiness.
When she feels she is becoming a risk to herself, Fiona decides to check into a nursing home, where one of the rules is that a patient cannot have any visitors for the first 30 days, in order to "adjust". Despite being wary of this policy, Grant agrees at the insistence of his wife whom he loves. During the drive to the home, Fiona acknowledges Grant's past infidelity while he was a university professor. Despite the awkward situation, the couple makes love one last time before separating.
When the 30-day period ends, Grant goes to visit his wife again, only to find she has forgotten him, and turned her affections to Aubrey, a mute man in a wheelchair who has become her "coping partner" in the facility. A caregiver at the facility befriends Grant and gives him some advice and support.
While seeing his wife grow closer to Aubrey, Grant becomes an unhappy voyeur when visiting his wife at the nursing home. As time goes by and Fiona still does not remember him, Grant even wonders whether Fiona's dementia is an act, to punish him for his past indiscretions. After some time, Aubrey's wife Marian removes him from the home due to financial difficulties. This causes Fiona to sink into a deep depression, with her physical well-being also appearing to deteriorate. Grant is touched by this, and visits Marian in an effort to allow Fiona to see Aubrey again. He would rather see his wife happy with another man than miserable and alone. Marian initially refuses, but the meeting leads to a tentative relationship between her and Grant. As time passes, Grant continues to visit both Fiona and Marian. He eventually succeeds in taking Aubrey back to visit his wife. But in his "moment alone" before he brings Aubrey into Fiona's room, Fiona temporarily remembers him and the love she has for him. They embrace.
- Julie Christie as Fiona
- Gordon Pinsent as Grant
- Olympia Dukakis as Marian
- Michael Murphy as Aubrey
- Kristen Thomson as Kristy
- Wendy Crewson as Madeleine
- Nina Dobrev as Monica
- Stacey LaBerge as Young Fiona
- Deanna Dezmari as Veronica
- Clare Coulter as Phoebe Hart
- Thomas Hauff as William Hart
- Alberta Watson as Dr. Fischer
- Grace Lynn Kung as Nurse Betty
Sarah Polley read the short story "The Bear Came Over the Mountain" in The New Yorker when she was on a flight from working on Hal Hartley's No Such Thing in Iceland. Polley claimed to be impressed by Alice Munro's piece, saying "I found it so moving and poignant and it went so deep in me". She also envisioned her No Such Thing co-star Julie Christie as Fiona.
At that point of Polley's career, she had acted and had directed numerous short films, while the Munro adaptation would be her first feature film as director. Although Polley said Christie liked the story, it was still challenging to persuade Christie to star given her desire to semi-retire, and she was secured after seven months of negotiation.
Atom Egoyan, who directed Polley in films such as The Sweet Hereafter, served as executive producer. He advised her on directing, telling her "the actor is the only person who is doing something genuinely magical on set- and that has to be protected at all costs".
Principal photography was underway in Ontario in February 2006, scheduled to take place to April 7. Most of the shooting occurred in Kitchener, Ontario, with some filming in Brant, Bracebridge, Paris, Ontario and Toronto.
In the United Kingdom, Away from Her opened on 27 April 2007. Distributed by Lions Gate Films, the film opened in New York City on 4 May 2007. Mongrel Media and Capri Releasing released the film in Canada on 4 May. The DVD release of the film included Polley's 2001 short film I Shout Love as a bonus feature.
By 8 June 2007, Mongrel Media and Capri Releasing reported the film had grossed $1 million in Canada. It was the first English Canadian film to cross the $1 million threshold in Canada in 2007. It made an additional $2 million in the U.S.
The film finished its run on 19 July 2007 after grossing $4,571,521 in North America. It made $4,622,762 in other territories, for a worldwide total of $9,194,283.
The film received acclaim from critics. As of October 21, 2020, the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 94% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 145 reviews, and an average rating of 8.12/10. The website's critical consensus states, "An accomplished directorial debut by Sarah Polley, Away From Her is a touching exploration of the effects of Alzheimer's, in which the tender wisdom of Polley's script is beautifully complemented by a wonderful performance from Julie Christie". Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 88 out of 100 signifying 'universal acclaim' based on 36 reviews. In Canada, the Toronto International Film Festival named it one of Top 10 Canadian films of the year. The Globe and Mail called it "heartbreaking" and "indelible". Geoff Pevere gave it three stars in The Toronto Star, saying Christie gave a wonderful performance and Pinsent was even better.
Roger Ebert awarded it four stars, calling the greatest of the films about Alzheimer's of the early 21st century, and "a heartbreaking masterpiece". Peter Bradshaw, writing in The Guardian, found the film smart and said this is possibly Christie's greatest performance. Dave Calhoun of Time Out said the film stood out for the idea that Fiona's Alzheimer's is punishment for Gordon's adulteries.
Variety's Dennis Harvey complimented it for "a low-key, intelligent setting for performances marked by those same qualities", singling out Pinsent and Christie. Stella Papamichael, writing for BBC, gave it five stars, praising it as " a low-key yet powerful and uplifting story of love renewed", and said Christie's performance was memorable. Entertainment Weekly gave it a B, with Lisa Schwarzbaum writing Christie is "mesmerizing". The film appeared on many critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2007.
Word about possible Academy Award recognition for Away from Her began at the Toronto International Film Festival, and critics associations particularly recognized Julie Christie for her performance. Lionsgate Films also chose to concentrate on promoting Christie in its Academy Award campaigning.
Criticism on the adaptationEdit
- Agnès Berthin-Scaillet, A Reading of Away from Her, Sarah Polley’s adaptation of Alice Munro’s short story, The Bear Came Over the Mountain, in: Journal of the Short Story in English (JSSE)/Les cahiers de la nouvelle, ISSN 0294-0442, n° 55 (Autumn 2010).
- McGill, Robert, "No Nation but Adaptation: The Bear Came over the Mountain, Away from Her, and What It Means to Be Faithful", in: Canadian Literature/Littérature canadienne, 2008 Summer; 197: 98–111.
- Demetrios Matheou, "Not Remembering to Forget", in: Sight and Sound, 2007 May; 17 (5): 12. (Interview)
- Danny Munso, "Away from Her", in: Creative Screenwriting, 2007 Mar–Apr; 14 (2): 30.
- "Away from Her (2007)". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on 7 June 2011. Retrieved July 4, 2011.
- Johnson, Brian D. (11 September 2006). "A star is reborn, behind the camera". Maclean's. Vol. 119. pp. 66–67.
- "Sarah Polley to direct her first feature film, based on Alice Munro story". The Canadian Press. 21 February 2006.
- Goodman, Lee-Anne (30 August 2006). "Polley swaps acting for writing/directing in adaptation of Munro story". The Canadian Press.
- Elliott, Lianne (25 March 2006). "On Location At Freeport; Julie Christie, Gordon Pinsent, Sarah Polley In Kitchener To Make Movie About Alzheimer's". The Record. p. C1.
- Dixon, Guy (8 June 2007). "Away from Her tops $1-million mark". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 4 April 2007.
- Papamichael, Stella (24 April 2007). "Away From Her (2007)". BBC. Retrieved 4 April 2007.
- Schwarzbaum, Lisa (7 May 2007). "Away From Her". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 4 April 2007.
- Riding, Alan (27 April 2007). "A Role About Winter for Julie Christie, a Star in Eternal Spring". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 April 2007.
- "Polley electrifies in directing debut". The Montreal Gazette. 14 September 2007.
- "Away From Her first to earn $1 million at home this year". Winnipeg Free Press. 8 June 2007. p. d2.
- "Away from Her - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on 3 January 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-06.
- "Away from Her (2007): Reviews". Metacritic. Archived from the original on 17 January 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-06.
- Ahearn, Victoria (12 December 2006). "Polley's 'Away From Her' makes list of Top 10 Canadian films of 2006". The Canadian Press.
- "Sarah Polley: Away From Her". The Globe and Mail (Ontario ed.). 24 March 2006.
- Pevere, Geoff (4 May 2007). "'Away From Her': A marriage adrift". The Toronto Star. Retrieved 4 April 2007.
- Ebert, Roger (11 October 2007). "Away From Her". Rogerebert.com. Retrieved 4 April 2007.
- Bradshaw, Peter (27 April 2007). "Away From Her". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 April 2007.
- Calhoun, Dave (24 April 2007). "Away From Her". Time Out. Retrieved 4 April 2007.
- Harvey, Dennis (30 April 2007). "Review: 'Away From Her'". Variety. Retrieved 4 April 2007.
- "Metacritic: 2007 Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. Archived from the original on 2008-01-02. Retrieved 2008-01-05.
- "Away from her best Drama of 2007". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on January 28, 2008.
- David Germain; Christy Lemire (2007-12-27). "'No Country for Old Men' earns nod from AP critics". Associated Press, via Columbia Daily Tribune. Archived from the original on 2008-01-03. Retrieved 2007-12-31.
- Roger Ebert (2007-12-20). "The year's ten best films and other shenanigans". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on 24 December 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-05.
- Germain, David (12 December 2007). "Too good for her own good". Boston Globe. Retrieved 4 April 2007.
- Johnson, Brian D. (7 May 2007). "Goodbye to that jagged little pill". Maclean's. Vol. 120 no. 17. p. 69.
- "Nominees - 80th Annual Academy Awards". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on 2008-01-23. Retrieved 2008-01-22.
- "Leading Actress in 2008". British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Retrieved 3 April 2007.
- Morris, Wesley (10 December 2007). "'No Country,' 'Diving Bell' are favorites of Boston film critics". Boston Globe. Retrieved 3 April 2007.
- King, Susan (9 January 2008). "No Country Is The Critical Choice". The Hamilton Spectator. p. G15.
- N.A. (1 October 2007). "Away From Her Gets Directors' Guild Nod For Best Picture". The Record. p. C1.
- McCrank, John (2008-03-04). ""Away From Her" dominates Canada's Genie Awards". Reuters. Retrieved 2008-03-08.
- Philip Marchand (2008-03-04). "Away From Her tops Genies". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on 5 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-08.
- "65th Golden Globe Awards Nominations & Winners". goldenglobes.org. Archived from the original on 13 December 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-13.
- N.A. (27 December 2007). "Oscar Contenders: And What They've Done So Far". The Record. p. F17.
- "2007 Award Winners". National Board of Review. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
- "National Society of Film Critics honours 'There Will Be Blood'". The Canadian Press. 5 January 2008.
- "2007 New York Film Critics Circle winners". USA Today. 7 January 2008. p. 03d.
- "Final 14th Annual SAG Awards Recipient Press Release". Screen Actors Guild. 2008-01-27. Archived from the original on May 9, 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-27.
- Goodman, Lee-Anne (20 December 2007). "No Country, Away From Her Toronto critics' top '07 choices". Winnipeg Free Press. p. d5.
- "Away from Her, Afghanada earn scriptwriting awards". CBC News. 24 April 2007. Retrieved 4 April 2017.
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- Official Canadian site
- Official American site
- Away from Her on IMDb
- Away from Her at Rotten Tomatoes
- Away from Her at Metacritic
- Away from Her at Box Office Mojo
- Away from Her at AllMovie
- Away from Her announcement and press kit/pictures
- Ex-child star stirs Toronto in directorial debut from the Washington Post (subscription required)
- Lionsgate to bring Polley's Away from Her to theatres from CBC Arts
- Directing her first movie, the ever-precocious Sarah Polley finds magic in age-old love from Macleans magazine
- The Bear Came over the Mountain (short story, complete text)