The 2014 film Still Alice follows the descent of Alice, suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
She is, of all things, a linguistics professor at a prestigious American University, and when the film starts she is starting to go downhill. She is only 50 years old.
Alice has early-onset familial Alzheimer’s. The ‘familial’ factor means it is hereditary. And as we learn in the film, one of Alice’s daughters tests positive for the gene.
So in addition to the descent of Alice, there is a long-term ‘death’ sentence hanging over the head of the daughter.
And Alice’s husband has to deal with this tangled situation.
As the film progresses, Alice becomes more incapable. She becomes incapable of even carrying out the plan to kill herself that she formulated earlier.
She promised herself she would kill herself when things got really bad.
She got the pills ready, but now she can’t recall what she was supposed to do.
By the end of the film, she can’t speak and she can’t do very much at all.
Today I chopped a parsnip and put it into some soup. I used our little Kenwood thingy to chop the parsnip up very small, and when I served up the soup my wife Tamara asked me whether it was rice that was in the soup.
I told her it was a vegetable and she asked me what it was. I couldn’t remember the name and I had to reach inside the fridge and hold up a parsnip so she could see it. She said ‘parsnip’.
For a few seconds I felt as though I was hearing the word parsnip for the first time. Not only did I not know it was a parsnip, I was learning parsnip anew.
Then after rolling the word around in my mind, I got back into the swing of things. And the parsnip went back to being a parsnip.
But for those few seconds I had an intimation of what it must be like to be Still Alice, but slipping away.