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Thanks to the Swedish Academy, Alice Munro doesn’t need a blockbuster movie to raise awareness of her works. Described by The New York Times as ‘Master of the Intricacies of the Human Heart’, and with her story settings mostly in rural counties and small towns, the 82 year-old writer must have known how the small and intimate can have far-reaching effects.

The short story as a literary form too must have gained importance and legitimation overnight now that Munro is honored as Nobel Laureate. The novel isn’t the only peak of the mountain of literary pursuits. Readers too, can now be totally comfortable with reading ‘just a short story’.

Back to movies, with our contemporary mega, blockbuster culture, it sure looks like the general public need to see a movie before knowing about a literary work. While I don’t like the idea, I’ve to admit that could well be the case nowadays. But for Munro, can anyone name a full feature movie that’s based on her short stories?

Right. Actually there are four. Edge of Madness (2002) is relatively unknown. Another one interestingly is an Iranian film, Canaan, which won the Audience Awards–Best Film at the Fajr International Film Festival in 2008. A better known adaptation is Away From Her (2006). It remains one of my all time favorite films. The most recent completed production is Hateship Loveship which premiered at TIFF13. I regret missing it when I was there in September. A film based on her story ‘Runaway’ is currently in development.

With Munro winning the Nobel, hopefully we’ll have the chance to see a general release of Hateship Loveship. So there you go, Munro could well be helping to reverse the trend: the writer promoting the film.

To celebrate Munro’s Nobel win, I’d like to repost in the following a review of Away From Her which I wrote in 2008. The film was directed by the young and talented Canadian actor/director Sarah Polley, who was nominated for an Oscar for her adapted screenplay based on Munro’s short story ‘The Bear Came Over the Mountain’. Julie Christie received an Oscar nomination for her role as Alzheimer’s afflicted Fiona.

You can read Munro’s story ‘The Bear Came Over the Mountain’ now online, thanks to a timely reprint by The New Yorker.

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AWAY FROM HER: A Short Review

How can you turn a good short story into a full length movie without compromising its quality? By turning it into a screenplay written by an equally sensitive and passionate writer, and then, through her own talented, interpretive eye, re-creates it into a visual narrative. Along the way, throw in a few veteran actors who are so passionate about what the script is trying to convey that they themselves embody the message.

Sarah Polley has made her directorial debut with a most impressive and memorable feat that I’m sure things will go even better down her career path. What she has composed on screen speaks much more poignantly than words on a page, calling forth sentiments that we didn’t even know we had. As Alzheimer’s begins to take control over Fiona, what can a loving husband do? Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent stir up thoughts in us that we’d rather bury: how much are we willing to give up for love? Or, how would we face the imminence of our loved ones’ and our own mental and physical demise?

Based on the story by Alice Munro, ‘The Bear Came Over the Mountain’, Polley brings out the theme of unconditional love not with your typical Hollywood’s hot, young, and sexy on screen, but aging actors in their 60’s and 70’s. It may not be as pleasurable to watch wrinkled faces hugging and kissing, or a man and a woman in bed, bearing age spots and all, but such scenes effectively beg the question: why feel uncomfortable?

Why does love has to be synonymous with youth, beauty, and romance? It is even more agonizing to watch how far Grant is willing to go solely for love of Fiona. Lucky for us, both writers spare us the truly painful at the end. It is through persistent, selfless giving that one ultimately receives; however meager and fleeting that reward may seem, it is permanence in the eyes of love. And it is through the lucid vision of a youthful 28-year-old writer/director that such ageless love is vividly portrayed…. Oh, the paradoxes in life.

~ ~ ~ Ripples

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