An expert in neurology with a focus on movement disorders, Diana Apetauerova, MD, is a member of the American Board of Neurology. Tufts University School of Medicine, where she holds an adjunct clinical professorship in neurology, employs her expertise.
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Several performances in films about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia have been nominated for Academy Awards over the years. According to a study released in 2014, movies fail to appropriately portray dementia, which may perpetuate negative assumptions about the disease and its effects. However, the following are nine films that make an attempt to deal with this complex subject.
1. Still Alice (2014)
Alice Howland (Julianne Moore) is a professor diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in this American film, based on Lisa Genova’s 2007 best-selling book of the same name.
Alec Baldwin plays her spouse, and Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, and Hunter Parrish play her children.
Some critics praised the film for its emotional impact, in part because it was told from Alice’s point of view; however, others criticized it for its lack of candor, particularly when it came to addressing the possibility that Alice’s children might be affected by this particular form of familial Alzheimer’s.
2. Away From Her (2007)
Away from Her’s Julie Christie was nominated for Best Actress for her performance as Fiona, an Alzheimer’s patient who willingly enters a long-term care home in order to escape becoming a burden to her husband of 50 years, Grant.
With Fiona’s memory failing and a new man in the facility becoming an important friend, Grant returns to the facility after the suggested 30-day gap. To secure Fiona’s happiness in the face of the cancer, Grant must rely on the pure love and respect he has for her.
A Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture (Drama) was given to Christie for her performance in this film.
3. The Savages (2007)
Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman portray siblings in this bittersweet comedy about adult children caring for a father with Alzheimer’s disease. Tamara Jenkins and Laura Linney were both nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars.
Hoffman’s performance as a neurotic professor who reluctantly reunites with his sister for the sake of their father earned him a Golden Globe nomination for best actor in a motion picture (musical or comedy).
4. Aurora Borealis (2006)
In this film about relationships and hard choices, Donald Sutherland and Louise Fletcher are the real stars. Although it was released without much fanfare, it’s widely regarded as a competent indie picture.
Sutherland portrays a grandfather suffering from dementia who is in need of more care than his wife (Fletcher) can provide. Their grandson (Joshua Jackson) and their home health attendant (Juliette Lewis) form a bond as Sutherland’s character (who swears he can see the Northern Lights from his window) loses his ability to see clearly.
5. The Notebook (2004)
The movie “The Notebook,” based on Nicholas Sparks’ best-selling novel of the same name, stars James Garner as Noah, the devoted husband of Allie (Gena Rowlands), who is in a nursing facility because of Alzheimer’s illness.
Noah reads aloud from his notebook in an attempt to reawaken her memories of their lengthy relationship. The couple’s younger years are depicted by Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams in the film. The film was directed by Nick Cassavetes, the son of Gena Rowlands and a true love story.
6. A Song For Martin (2001)
Couple Martin and Barbara are played by Sven Wollter and Viveka Seldahl in this Swedish film with English subtitles. As a conductor and composer, Martin works with Barbara.
Midlife romance leads to marriage, but a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease soon follows. One of the best renderings of caregiving on film, this heartwarming tale is based on a true story.
7. Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch (2001)
John Bayley’s book “Elegy for Iris” portrays the true tale of English novelist Iris Murdoch’s Alzheimer’s disease and the unwavering love of her partner of 40 years, Bayley, in this film.
During Jim Broadbent’s depiction of Bayley, he earned an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor. Both Judi Dench and Kate Winslet were nominated for Academy Awards and Golden Globes for their portrayals of Murdoch at different stages of her life.
8. Firefly Dreams (2001)
The English-subtitled version of this Japanese film earned several international honors at film festivals. A disturbed adolescent named Naomi (aka Maho) is assigned to work for her aunt and uncle on a farm for the summer. An elderly neighbor with Alzheimer’s condition has requested her help.
As a result of the arrangement, Naomi develops a deep connection with the woman.
9. Age Old Friends (1989)
Tandy Cronyn, Hume Cronyn’s real-life daughter, plays John Cooper, a man who chooses to live in a retirement home rather than with his daughter to maintain his independence. His friendship with Vincent Gardenia’s Michael (Vincent Gardenia) begins to show signs of Alzheimer’s.
Retiring from the retirement home’s tight framework and helping his friend deal with his illness are two options John must choose between.