Away from Her

Away from Her

Infobox Film
name = Away from Her

writer = Alice Munro (short story)
Sarah Polley
starring = Julie Christie
Gordon Pinsent
Olympia Dukakis
Kristen Thomson
with Michael Murphy
and Wendy Crewson
director = Sarah Polley
producer = Daniel Iron
Simone Urdl
Jennifer Weiss
distributor = Capri Releasing and Mongrel Media
released = 2006
runtime = 110 min.
language = English
country = flagicon|Canada Canada
budget = | music = Jonathan Goldsmith
amg_id = 1:355981
imdb_id = 0491747

"Away from Her" is a English-Canadian film directed by Sarah Polley which debuted at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival and also played in the Premier category at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. The feature-length directorial debut of Canadian actress Sarah Polley, the film is based on Alice Munro's short story "The Bear Came over the Mountain", from the 2001 collection "Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage". It was executive produced by Atom Egoyan (Polley's director in both "Exotica" and "The Sweet Hereafter") and distributed by Lionsgate Films.

The film stars Gordon Pinsent and Julie Christie as a couple whose marriage is tested when Christie's character begins to suffer from Alzheimer's and moves into a nursing home, where she loses virtually all memory of her husband and begins to develop a romance with another nursing home resident. The cast also includes Olympia Dukakis, Michael Murphy, Wendy Crewson, Alberta Watson, Lili Francks and Kristen Thomson. The film was shot in Hamilton, Ontario.cite web|url=,+Ontario,+Canada |title=Internet Movie Database - List of Films shot in Hamilton, Ontario|accessdate=2008-01-29]


Grant (Pinsent) and Fiona (Christie) are a retired married couple living in rural Brant County, Ontario. Fiona begins to lose her memory, and it becomes apparent she suffers from Alzheimer's disease.

When she feels she is becoming a risk to herself, Fiona decides to check into a nursing home, where one of the rules is that a patient can not have any visitors for 30 days, in order to "adjust". Unsure of this policy, Grant agrees anyway, at the insistence of his wife whom he loves.

When the 30 day period ends, Grant goes to visit his wife again, only to find she has forgotten him, and turned her affections to Aubrey (Murphy), a mute cripple who has become her "coping partner" in the facility.

While seeing his wife grow closer to her coping partner, Grant takes on a role of an unhappy voyeur when visiting his wife, who remembers less of their love with each visit. After some time, Aubrey's wife removes him from the home due to financial difficulties. This causes Fiona to sink into a deep depression, with her mental condition also appearing to deteriorate. Grant sees this, and as an act of loving sacrifice visits Aubrey’s wife Marian (Dukakis) in an effort to allow Fiona to see Aubrey again. She initially refuses, but the meeting leads to a tentative relationship between the two.

As time passes, Grant continues to visit both Fiona and Marian. He eventually succeeds in taking Aubrey back to visit his wife, but in his "moment alone" before he brings Aubrey into Fiona's room, Fiona temporarily remembers him and the love she has for him. The film closes on their embrace.


Sarah Polley was on a flight back from working on Hal Hartley's "No Such Thing" in Iceland when she read the Alice Munro short story "The Bear Came Over the Mountain" in "The New Yorker". "I was so unbelievably moved by the story. I was just finished working with Julie Christie, and as I read, I keep seeing Julie's face in the character of Fiona," said Polley. "I am certainly not one of those people who reflectively thinks about adapting stories; I just want to leave the things I love alone. But this fascinated me. I read the story and I saw the film and I knew what the film was."

At that point of Polley's career, she has been acting since the age of six, and had written and directed two short films, "Don't Think Twice" and "The Best Day of my Life". "For two years, I couldn't get the story out of my head and finally asked producer Danny Iron to look into getting the rights. I threw myself into writing, but it's daunting, taking on the work on somebody you respect so much. Alice Munro is one of my favorite writers because she looks right through things. The characters are all so flawed, so lovable in certain moments and so detestable in others. The adaptation didn't feel like a huge process because the film was embedded in that story."

Working alongside Polley were producers Jennifer Weiss, with whom she made her Genie-award winning short "I Shout Love", and Simone Urdl, partners in the production company The Film Farm, and Daniel Iron of Foundry Films who produced Polley's first short "Don't Think Twice". Atom Egoyan served as executive producer. Daniel Iron, having known Polley for a very long time, never doubted her ability to direct a feature. "I know how fiercely intelligent and diligent she is. She's been on sets since she was young and knows the craft better than any first time director. She shot-listed her first draft of the script."

Critical reception

The film received vastly favorable reviews from critics. As of January 6, 2008, the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 95% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 128 reviews. [cite web|url= |title=Away from Her - Rotten Tomatoes |accessdate=2008-01-06 |publisher=Rotten Tomatoes] Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 88 out of 100, based on 36 reviews. [cite web|url= |title=Away from Her (2007): Reviews |accessdate=2008-01-06 |publisher=Metacritic]

Top ten lists

The film appeared on many critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2007. [cite web|url= |title=Metacritic: 2007 Film Critic Top Ten Lists |accessdate=2008-01-05 |publisher=Metacritic]

*1st - Best Drama, "Rotten Tomatoes" [ [ Away from her best Drama of 2007] ]
*2nd - Dana Stevens, "Slate"
*2nd - Jack Mathews, "New York Daily News"
*3rd - Carrie Rickey, "The Philadelphia Inquirer"
*3rd - Ella Taylor, "LA Weekly" (tied with "The Savages")
*4th - David Germain, Associated Presscite web|url=!013.asp |title='No Country for Old Men' earns nod from AP critics |accessdate=2007-12-31 |author=David Germain |coauthors=Christy Lemire |date=2007-12-27 |publisher=Associated Press, via Columbia Daily Tribune]
*4th - V.A. Musetto, "New York Post"
*5th - Christy Lemire, Associated Press
*5th - Stephanie Zacharek, "Salon"
*6th - Marjorie Baumgarten, "The Austin Chronicle"
*6th - Roger Ebert, "Chicago Sun-Times" [cite web|url= |title=The year's ten best films and other shenanigans |accessdate=2008-01-05 |author=Roger Ebert |date=2007-12-20 |work=Chicago Sun-Times]
*7th - Kevin Crust, "Los Angeles Times"
*8th - David Ansen, "Newsweek"
*9th - A.O. Scott, "The New York Times" (tied with "The Savages")
*9th - Liam Lacey and Rick Groen, "The Globe and Mail"

Awards and nominations

Genie Awards

The film won 7 out of 8 Genie Awards for which it was nominated [cite web|url= |title="Away From Her" dominates Canada's Genie Awards |accessdate=2008-03-08 |author=John McCrank |date=2008-03-04 |publisher=Reuters] , in the categories of Best Motion Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Pinsent), Best Actress (Christie), Best Supporting Actress (Thomson), Best Adapted Screenplay and the Claude Jutra Award for best feature film by a first-time director. [cite web|url= |title=Away From Her tops Genies |accessdate=2008-03-08 |author=Philip Marchand |date=2008-03-04 |work=Toronto Star] The only award it did not win was for Best Editing, which it lost to "Eastern Promises".

"Away From Her" was the third film in Genie Award history, after "Le Confessional" and "Atanarjuat", to win both the Claude Jutra Award and the Best Picture Genie in the same year.

Academy Awards

The film received two Academy Award nominations for the 80th Academy Awards. Christie was nominated for Best Actress and Polley was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay.cite web|url= |title=Nominees - 80th Annual Academy Awards |accessdate=2008-01-22 |publisher=Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences]


Julie Christie won the 2007 Critics' Choice Award award for Best Actress, as well as the Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama award at the 65th Golden Globe Awards. [cite web|url= |title=65th Golden Globe Awards Nominations & Winners |accessdate=2008-01-13 |] Julie Christie also won Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role at the 14th Screen Actors Guild Awards held in 2008. [cite web|url= |title=Final 14th Annual SAG Awards Recipient Press Release |accessdate=2008-01-27 |date=2008-01-27 |publisher=Screen Actors Guild]


External links

* [ Official Canadian site]
* [ Official American site]
* [ "Away from Her" announcement and press kit/pictures]
* [ Ex-child star stirs Toronto in directorial debut] from the Washington Post (subscription required)
* [ Lionsgate to bring Polley's "Away from Her" to theatres] from CBC Arts
* [ Directing her first movie, the ever-precocious Sarah Polley finds magic in age-old love] from Macleans magazine
* [ The Bear Came over the Mountain (short story, complete text)]

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