Julianne Moore stars as Alice Howland, a Columbia University professor of linguistics. She’s a happily married mother of three adults, a daily runner, an accomplished educator, yet something’s going wrong.
We all occasionally go into a room and forget why we went there. Alice starts with a forgotten point she’s making during a lecture, stopping her cold. Then she’s suddenly lost during a jog. The confusion begins to grow frightening. It’s time for her and her husband John to see a doctor, where they receive devastating news. She has a rare form of early onset Alzheimer’s disease. She’s 50 years old – 15 years younger than it usually occurs.
We see the growth of the disease (http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_10_signs_of_alzheimers.asp) from Alice’s point of view, not the family’s. Everyone gathers for Christmas dinner, and Alice introduces herself to her son’s girlfriend. Her daughter is thrilled that Alice will make her famous bread pudding, but later there’s a look of confusion as she has to look up the recipe. When it’s time to sit down, Alice introduces herself to her son’s girlfriend. Deterioration is occurring too quickly.
Alice’s work is suffering, and the time has come to admit the truth to the chair of her department, and she’s dismissed. Her husband remains supportive, but he’s still ambitious about his own career and doesn’t agree with her wish to take a year’s sabbatical so they can have some time together before she’s completely lost. She’s disappearing and she knows it.
Alice realizes this horror can be passed down to her children and begs them to be tested. She gets to a point where she feels safe only in the house. At one point she’s so confused she opens all the wrong doors looking for the bathroom. We share her panic and embarrassment.
It doesn’t come from her voice. It comes from her eyes.
Julianne Moore is subtle as she guides us through this heartbreaking ordeal. She is surrounded by a good cast, script and director. But I’m not mentioning anyone else. This film is hers. So, probably, is the Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role.