Cast: Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, Hunter Parrish
Directors: Richard Glazer, Wash Westmoreland
Running time: 101 mins
Rating: M (offensive language)
Verdict: Effortful performance leads a formulaic film
The recent movies that have looked at the impact of dementia - Away From Her, The Savages, Aurora Borealis, A Song For Martin, Lovely, Still - have tended to focus on the effect on those left behind as the light dies.
But the film that has earned Moore her fifth Oscar nomination (she's already won the Golden Globe) and a bunch of critics' awards, homes in remorselessly on the person most directly affected.
The title (and that of Lisa Geneva's bestselling 2007 source novel) imply the belief that the main character, Alice Howland, does not lose her essential self as her disease progresses, but the film mounts a pretty persuasive contrary case.
It does so by laying the ironies on with a trowel. A cognitive psychologist and linguistics specialist at an Ivy League university, whose expertise is in "memory and computation", Alice gets hit with a particularly fast-progressing form of early-onset Alzheimer's.
Her three adult children are the centre of a perfect family life (you just know that Stewart, as the one who's a teeny bit off the middle-class rails, will be the one who comes through when the going gets tough) but they have a 50/50 chance of inheriting it,.
The film, written by directors Glazer and Westmoreland, precisely charts Alice's descent and, in particular, her heartbreaking early attempts to deal with impairments as though they were flabby stomach muscles: as she prepares the perfect Christmas dinner, she tries to remember trios of words she has written down.
Moore, who is in almost every shot, is at her best when she has the screen to herself, as she lets us see her realisations (and their opposite confusions) take hold. It's very good work, outstanding at times, and her scenes with Stewart feel real.
But there's an effortfulness about the acting, so it always looks like acting, compared to Judi Dench's Iris Murdoch trying to remember how to walk through a door. And it's in the service of a flabby, formulaic film.
Baldwin, as believable as Bogart as a research physician, mostly seems like he'd rather be elsewhere and his tears when he finally gets the chance to be seem very fake.
And too often, editorial decisions seem faint-hearted. The outcome of the sequence in which Alice is listening to suicide instructions left by her former self is superbly handled and all of a piece with the fade-to-black episodic structure that is one of the film's strengths.
But when we learn that Alice's is an inherited condition, the filmmakers lack the courage to leave that horror sitting there, and instead tidy it up with an offhand phone call. The syrupy score just adds to the cheesiness of what is a classy disease-of-the-week weepie.
* Follow TimeOut on Facebook