AWAY FROM HER is the lyrical screenplay adaptation of celebrated author Alice Munro’s short story “The Bear Came Over the Mountain”.
AWAY FROM HER is a beautifully moving love story that deals with memory and the circuitous, unnamable paths of a long marriage. Married for 50 years, Grant (Gordon Pinsent) and Fiona’s (Julie Christie) commitment to each other appears unwavering, and their everyday life is full of tenderness and humour. This serenity is broken only by the occasional, carefully restrained reference to the past, giving a sense that this marriage may not always have been such a fairy tale. This tendency of Fiona’s to make such references, along with her increasingly evident memory loss, creates a tension that is usually brushed off casually by both of them. As the lapses become more obvious and dramatic, it is no longer possible for either of them to ignore the fact that Fiona is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Eventually, Fiona decides that it is time for her to enter into Meadowlake, a retirement home that specializes in the disease. One of the more archaic rules of Meadowlake is that a patient may not have any visitors during their first month in the facility in order to “adjust.” After an excruciatingly painful 30 days separated from his wife, Grant returns to Meadowlake to discover Fiona seems to have no memory of him and has turned all of her affection to Aubrey (Michael Murphy), another resident in the home.
Grant, finding no option but to accept his new status as an attentive acquaintance visits her daily and is forced to bear witness to the cement bond that has developed between her and Aubrey. Over time, he befriends Kristy
(Kristen Thomson), a salt of the earth nurse who works at Meadowlake. Touched by his dogged devotion, she takes a special interest in him. Through their conversations, Grant’s imperfect history and the perverse poetic justice of this agonizing situation with Fiona and Aubrey becomes evident.
When Aubrey’s wife, Marian (Olympia Dukakis) returns from her vacation, she suddenly takes Aubrey out of Meadowlake. Fiona is devastated by the separation and enters into a deep depression. Her condition deteriorates rapidly. Grant, fearful for Fiona’s life, embarks of the greatest act of self-sacrifice of his life as a means to attaining his wife’s final happiness.