Away From Her

The Contenders

Release date: May 4 Distributor: Lionsgate

When Lionsgate opened “Away From Her,” the chief talking point in Hollywood was Julie Christie’s heartbreaking and warm performance as a woman who feels she is “disappearing” into Alzheimer’s. Four decades after she won an Oscar for “Darling,” Christie’s acting has become simpler and subtler. The fact that some thesps’ skills (and beauty) improves with age is likely to have resonance with Academy actors.

But the film has many other virtues, including Sarah Polley’s unsentimental yet compassionate script and direction, which can tap into the same Acad voters who supported “The Queen,” “Brokeback Mountain” and “Vera Drake” — grown-up, actor-driven, intimate dramas.

Actress Polley — who at 28 made her feature filmmaking debut with “Away,” based on Alice Munro’s short story “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” — avoids the disease-of-the-week traps. The pic really focuses on a couple who, after 44 years of marriage, still enjoy each other’s company but are forced to make some tough choices. And, in their unselfish decisions, they redefine themselves and their love.

Other notable performances, including Gordon Pinsent and Olympia Dukakis, underline Polley’s deft touch with thesps.

The box office was modest ($4.6 million domestically), but the film is now on DVD, making it eminently accessible to voters.

When Pinsent tells Christie he isn’t happy about the assisted-care home she’s picked out, she reminds him not to look for happiness: “I think all we can aspire to is a little bit of grace.” Polley, Christie et al supply a lot of grace here, which gives the film a big kudos boost.

See photos, trailer and more on ‘Away From Her’

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