Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease has touched me through two different creative products over recently (I say recently, but I’ve waited so long to actually publish this post that it’s been a while now.)
My first encounter was through ‘Elizabeth is Missing’, a book I read on our family holiday in the middle east, the second one in ‘Still Alice’, the film that bagged Julianne Moore, deservedly so, her first Oscar.
‘Elizabeth is Missing’ is a detective tale spanning over 70 years narrated by the 90-something Maud, who suffers from either Alzheimer’s or dementia. Because the main character forgets what she is doing and loses her train of thought constantly the story moves at a painstakingly slow pace, which can be discouraging at times but is likewise an amazing way to empathise with the main character’s frustration with her own mental decay.
In the end I found the actual murder mystery less important than the experience of spending that time in a slowly crumbling mind. I think it made it ever so slightly easier to imagine what someone who is suffering from this condition must go through.
‘Elizabeth is Missing’, although a book about dementia, didn’t leave me feeling very sad afterwards but ‘Still Alice’ managed to more than make up for that. Boy, oh boy did that film make me cry. Not just subtle, silent cinema tears, no I’m talking puffy eyes, snot and an occasional gasp for air. I even saw my significant other wipe away a tear or two when the lights came on and he is usually a very cold-hearted Brit (I jest, but he isn’t overtly film-emotional).
The story is about Alice (did you guess?) a Columbia University linguistics professor who gets diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. You follow Alice as she is almost literally losing her mind and it is one of the most tragic things I have ever seen.
To sum it all up, if you want an interesting exercise in walking in someone’s shoes you should go ahead and read ‘Elizabeth is missing’ and if you want a good, intense cry, ‘Still Alice” is for you.