***/**** Image A- Sound A Extras B
starring Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Luke Kirby, Sarah Silverman
written and directed by Sarah Polley
by Angelo Muredda As both literary adaptations and first features go, Sarah Polley's Away from Her was an astonishing exercise in restraint. Working from Alice Munro's short story "The Bear Came Over the Mountain," about a seventysomething married couple whose longstanding private games turn into something else when Fiona (Julie Christie) is diagnosed with dementia, Polley forewent the ostentatious route of many first-time directors by telling the story straight. It's become customary, in speaking of that film, to chalk up this directness to the source material--Munro is, after all, known for her frankness, and apart from the expansion of Olympia Dukakis's character and a Hockey Night in Canada gag, Polley ported her narrative beats over more or less wholesale. But Munro has a certain nastiness, not least in her omniscient narrators' cutting observations, that's largely absent from Polley's adaptation, which has particular sympathy for Gordon Pinsent's reformed husband, who's more of a forgetful cad in the short story. It's a standard line to say that Munro reserves judgment, particularly towards her adulterers, but what of the ghoulishness of her characterization, in Lives of Girls and Women, of small-town scolds who say things like, "The law-yer, didn't he think he was somebody?" Polley doesn't get sufficient credit for translating what she can of that prickliness--which also runs through "Bear"--and molding the rest into something unabashedly romantic.