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Away From Her
cast: Julie Christie, Michael Murphy, Gordon Pinsent, and Olympia Dukakis

director: Sarah Polley

105 minutes (12) 2006
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Metrodome DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Gary Couzens
Alice Munro is one of the finest writers of short fiction alive, and one of the few who writes short fiction - usually of it of novelette or novella length - exclusively. (Her only 'novel', the Booker-nominated The Beggar Maid is a collection of stories linked by the same central character.) Her stories are subtle, rooted in and casting an unsparing light on male/ female relationships, coupled with a wide range of subject matter and setting, both contemporary and past. However, she is a contemporary writer who has not often been dramatised: maybe her originality of structure and choice of subject matter makes her work more suited to the independent sector than the multiplex.

The Bear Came Over the Mountain was first published in The New Yorker in 1999. It can be read online here, and is in the collection Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage. Fiona (Julie Christie) and Grant (Gordon Pinsent) have been married for over 40 years. However, Fiona now has Alzheimer's and is moved into a nursing home. Grant has to be separated from Fiona for 30 days, so that she can become used to her new surroundings - and when he sees her again she seems to have forgotten him. She has also transferred her affections to another man, a mute patient, Aubrey (Michael Murphy). Grant isn't an entirely sympathetic figure: over the course of the story he gets to learn some home truths about the marriage he thought was a happy one and as he is drawn towards Marian (Olympia Dukakis), Aubrey's wife.

Away from Her is a remarkably mature feature debut for Sarah Polley, previously best known as an actress in Go and Atom Egoyan's The Sweet Hereafter. (Egoyan produced this film.) Finely acted, if a little slow-paced, it's well worth a look, though for some people will no doubt hit a little close to home. The soundtrack includes K.D. Lang's version of Neil Young's Helpless, over the end credits.

Metrodome's all-regions DVD has an anamorphic transfer in the ratio of 1.78:1 and a choice of Dolby digital 5.1 and analogue Dolby surround soundtracks. The extras comprise a rather patchy commentary from Julie Christie, a trailer and five deleted scenes.

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