Sarah Polley’s first feature, an adaptation of an Alice Munro short story about a couple dealing with Alzheimer’s, is getting a lot of praise on the festival circuit, and she was appropriately celebrated at the premiere for MoMA’s Canadian Front program last night.

Julie Christie plays a woman in her sixties who finds herself putting pans into the freezer, and before you know it, her husband of 44 years (Gordon Pinsent) has to drive her to a home — where she soon forgets all about him and begins a touching/infuriating relationship with another patient instead. It’s well acted, of course, but the dialogue is a tad too “literary” for my taste, and Polley’s direction left me somewhat confused in the end. Still, it’s a story that rarely gets told–when was a last time you saw a tour of a nursing home as act-ending set piece? It’s goes without saying that it’s all terribly sad, even though there are a few flashes of humor. In a way, this is a movie not quite unlike Severance: Away From Her can be just as hard to take, and you really have to be in the mood for it. At the Q&A with Polley and Olympia Dukakis, it was nice to see that Polley can, in fact, smile.

Away from Her. Sarah Polley, 2006. ***