Nobody cries like Julianne Moore. Except maybe her audience. Alice Howland is a very intelligent and rational character, and Moore, aided by writers Glatzer and Westmoreland, connect with viewers by making no decisions that differ from anyone else’s better judgement. Her despair is ours: when she runs out of places to go, we have no idea where to direct her. Her children, played by Kate Bosworth, Kristen Stewart, and Hunter Parrish, attempt to cope with devastated bafflement: nobody does anything that feels unnatural or unreasonable. But despite the realistic responses and believable interactions, the dialogue frequently sounds scripted.
A calm, quiet thriller. This is a very tense and suspenseful film, although the biggest action sequence is a jog across campus. Howland’s deterioration is bewildering and unpredictable: which simple task she will struggle with next is totally up in the air. Simple conversations hold the potential for dissolution; cooking a meal cannot be taken for granted. We may cheer silently when Howland remembers an appointment. Moore’s performance is a very investing one, and each victory and failure is felt in full force.
Realism with a spoonful of positivity. There are no easy ways out of this film. What happens, happens, and Howland’s steadfastness and focus in the face of her crumbling identity is all she, her family, or the audience have to hold on to. But it seems to be enough for her, so it’s enough for us. There are points where the movie slips us and tells us that itself.