catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 6, Num 13 :: 2007.06.29 — 2007.07.13


One very long moment

The permanence of suffering

“Suffering is permanent, obscure and dark, and shares the nature of infinity.” These words of William Wordsworth incarnate in Sarah Polley’s Away From Her. Adapted from Alice Munro’s short story “The Bear Came Over the Mountain,” Polley pens her first script and makes her directorial debut in this vibrantly visceral foray into the crevices of life’s relational dusk. 

Away From Her is the tale of love both lost and found, trapped in the confusion of "could have…", "might have been…", and "I wish…". The unfolding reveals an intimacy and love waning at the cliff of life’s stern reality, the loss of memory and the inherent confusion of those that remain. Fiona (Julie Christie) and Grant (Gordon Pinsent) are seemingly in the limelight of their storybook life—at first glance, an idyllic couple. Yet when Fiona begins to “lose” her mind she checks herself into the Meadowbrook deluxe nursing home. Grant (Gordon Pinsent), skeptical of the alternative, is left only with Fiona’s notion that “all we can aspire to in this situation is a little bit of grace.” Grant soon finds Fiona in a bond with a fellow patient and wheelchair bound mute named Aubrey (Michael Murphy). In the chaotic confusion Grant eventually turns to Marian (Olympia Dukakis), Aubrey’s wife, for solace and together they all embark on a journey of self-discovery, the cup of both bitter and sweet.  

Our lives cannot side-step the inevitability of suffering. It was Oscar Wilde who noted, “Suffering is one very long moment. We cannot divide it by seasons.” Away From Her helps us consider the outcome of seeking answers to unanswerable questions, at what point will our misery subside? The answer, vividly articulated by Marian, is that “things aren’t ever what you’d hope they’d be, not ever, for anybody.” In other words, “It’s just life.”

With brilliantly poignant portrayals by Academy Award winners Olympia Dukakis and Julie Christie alongside Gordon Pinsent and Michael Murphy, Away From Her is an enchantingly refreshing story. Captured well by the eye of cinematographer Luc Montpellier, poetically scored by Jonathan Goldsmith, and delicately cut by Editor David Wharnsby, Away from Her is orchestrated with the emotional baton of the masterful Sarah Polley and it’s a score laden with life’s both sweet and hereafter moments. 

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