AWAY FROM HER GALA D: Sarah Polley w/ Julie Christie, Gordon Pinsent. Canada. 110 min. Monday, September 11, 6:30 PM ROY THOMSON HALL; Tuesday, September 12, 9:30 AM RYERSON Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNNN
Polley's feature debut is an absorbing and poignant adaptation of an Alice Munro story about an elderly couple dealing with Alzheimer's. Childless couple Fiona (Christie) and Grant (Pinsent) have been in love and married for more than 40 years, some of them rocky because of Grant's womanizing. When Fiona starts losing her memory - shown in a few richly detailed scenes - Grant reluctantly puts her in a rest home, where she forms a mysterious bond with another married resident (Michael Murphy).
Munro's plots don't lend themselves to synopsis. They're carefully constructed glimpses of the progress of love. Polley, who adapted the story, fleshes out things suggested in the text, and whenever possible uses repeated images - Fiona skiing, for instance - to create moods and hint at subconscious memories. The subtle score, which includes Neil Young's Harvest Moon, helps a lot, too.
Polley knows that so much of drama is about what's going on in the eyes, and the two leads have hugely expressive baby blues. We keep looking at Christie, one of the most intelligent screen presences, to see if she knows what's going on, and Pinsent communicates a lot about guilt and fear by not meeting people's looks.
Olympia Dukakis, Kristen Thomson and Wendy Crewson deliver good support, but the two leads, Munro and Polley herself are the stars. Expect a raft of Genie noms.