Still Alice is a dramatic film based on a novel by neuroscientist Lisa Genova. It is the story of Alice Howland (played by Julianne Moore), a Columbia University linguistics professor whose life is upended by the diagnosis of early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease shortly after her 50th birthday. What begins insidiously with difficulty finding a word during an important lecture, and getting lost on a familiar running trail, rapidly progresses to more devastating lapses in memory and cognition that are a stark contrast from Alice’s usual function. On top of this, the family is faced with the reality that Alice’s children are also at risk for this genetic condition.  

Scenes of Alice’s life are intermixed with her extensive cognitive evaluation by a neurologist. In the office, we watch her struggle to remember the name and address of an imaginary person within minutes of her neurologist telling her; at home, we observe the way she forgets beloved recipes, and even the people she has met just moments before.   

As the film progresses, it becomes increasingly painful to watch the deterioration of Alice’s condition, and the effect it has on her loved ones. We see the raw humanity of her grappling with this in various realms—in a particularly heartbreaking scene, she experiences incontinence for the first time because she can’t find the bathroom in her own home. In a later scene, she forgets her daughter after watching her perform in a play. Throughout the film, she clings desperately to her phone, in which she has listed certain essential questions about her life that she feels, if eventually forgotten, warrant her suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills.  

Despite these enormous challenges to both her sense of self and her relationships, Alice’s character is presented with the resilience of so many individuals who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. In a pivotal scene, Alice speaks at an Alzheimer’s Association conference; despite needing to highlight each sentence as she reads it to remember what she has already said, she is able to share her story authentically as the audience and her family is moved to tears.   


This film is frequently difficult to watch and provides the viewer with glimpses of the ever more monumental challenge of living with or caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease. We are offered an intimate perspective of Alice’s emotions through all stages of her reckoning—the grief, anger, and ultimately, acceptance. We also see the pain of her family as they cope in different ways with her illness and demands on their own lives. Ultimately, the film is an honest and courageous portrayal of the human cost of this incurable disease, juxtaposed with the equally powerful perseverance of the human spirit to advance in the face of it.


For her portrayal of Alice, Julianne Moore won an Academy Award for Best Actress.  




Sony Pictures Classic

Running Time (in minutes)