Don’t Go To See Still Alice…Yet

Still Alice

Warning: This post shares nonspecific pieces of the story/movie Still Alice by Lisa Genova that could be considered spoilers.

If you haven’t seen the movie Still Alice, playing now in theatres, I urge you to read the book first.
Still Alice by Lisa Genova, is a beautiful and touching story that explores the devastating truths about the destructive disease Alzheimer’s.

Like many a book-turned-movie, there is a certain amount of disappointment for those whom have read the book before watching the movie; it’s nearly impossible to capture and translate 300 hundred pages of events and relationships into a 90 minute movie.

Perhaps the movie skips over your favourite part of the book or the director doesn’t cast the characters the way you pictured them; there are many reasons that movies don’t always live up to their respective literary counterparts.

READ THE BOOK BEFORE SEEING THE MOVIE

In the case of Still Alice, I am particularly adamant that one should read the book before watching the movie. It’s not that the movie isn’t good or that the acting isn’t top-notch; it’s that Alice Howland‘s (the main character) story is so profound and the relationships between the characters so complex that you need to absorb every single sentence to appreciate the full extent of the story.

It is my opinion that everyone should first experience Still Alice in its original form. The movie skipped over some very key pieces from the book and changed some others that are essential to the beauty and heartbreak of the story.

In order to fully appreciate the loss that Alice experiences through her struggles with Early Onset Alzheimer’s, one needs to understand that Alice’s identity is almost solely based on her mind. She is a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned expert in linguistics. I don’t feel that the movie paid enough attention to this.

One also needs to be aware of the convoluted relationship that Alice has with her youngest daughter, Lydia, to be able to appreciate how this relationship evolves throughout the story and demonstrates perhaps the only ‘upside’ to her diagnosis.

I feel that these are two key pieces from the book that aren’t depicted to their full and necessary extent in the movie version of this story.

In both the movie and the book, there is a scene where Alice, now fairly progressed in her disease, gives a moving speech to a respected audience on the topic of Alzheimer’s. I feel that this part of the story is the essence of Still Alice as it shows that Alice, despite her disease, is in fact still Alice.

The movie misses the mark on capturing this scene; it portrays Alice in a less confident and more fragile state. It does not depict this moment to be the powerful event that it is in the book.

There are a few other key pieces of Alice’s story that aren’t shown in the movie that help to paint the picture of just how frustrating this disease is. I won’t mention them here today because I don’t want to give away too much but I encourage you to make the comparison yourself.

WHY I’M SO ADAMANT

Alzheimer's Stigma

Perhaps I’m a little biased on this topic; you see I have experience with this awful disease. I know what it is to watch someone you love and respect change for no apparent reason. I know the feeling of seeing it in their eyes; seeing that they don’t know who you are, only that they must have loved you at one time. I know how Alzheimer’s made me feel watching someone I love drift away.

Now that I have read Still Alice, I feel that I know a little more about how my loved-one must have been feeling when the first signs of Alzheimer’s started to show. It must have been terrifying, confusing and heartbreaking.

Like other mental illnesses, Alzheimer’s has a stigma attached to it and I believe this stigma is captured perfectly in the book:

And while a bald head and a looped ribbon were seen as badges of courage and hope, her reluctant vocabulary and vanishing memories advertised mental instability and impending insanity. Those with cancer could expect to be supported by their community. Alice expected to be an outcast. Even the well intentioned and educated tended to keep a fearful distance from the mentally ill. (Genova, 117, 118)

I want people to read Still Alice to help spread awareness on the topic of Alzheimer’s disease, to help end the stigma and to gain a little understanding about what those plagued with this disease might be experiencing.

I want you to be able to enjoy the whole story of Still Alice, not just a piece of it. Even if you are not an avid reader, you will find Still Alice to be an easy and rewarding read. You will put the book down after you turn the last page and be glad that you devoted the time to reading it.

Then by all means go and see the movie as it, too, is a lovely story with an excellent cast and wonderful acting.

For more information on Alzheimer’s disease visit alzheimer.ca

Have you read Still Alice? Have you seen the movie? What are your thoughts?

City Mom

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