Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Alfred Lutter, Kris Kristofferson
Director: Martin Scorsese
Running Time: 112 mins
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is an American film about a woman who, after years of suffering in a neglectful home life, decides to move city with her young son, driving across the Southwestern United States attempting to stay afloat.
A film that touches on both deeply personal issues as well as a wider perspective on the role of women in modern society, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is rich in depth throughout, but has all the ingredients of a really challenging watch. However, thanks to an exceptional lead performance from Ellen Burstyn, the film is as genuinely enjoyable and uplifting as it is a sobering view on the modern world.
There’s a lot that makes this film a gripping watch, but it would be nothing without Burstyn in the lead role. Her energy, humour and dramatic ability are the perfect combination to tell what is a complex and very layered story, and not one that you need to take at face value.
In all truth, it would be easy for the film to give a gritty, almost hopeless perspective on the life of a woman suppressed for her years in marriage, and then almost left out to pasture after leaving her home life. However, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore goes beyond what are undeniably heavy-going issues on the surface, telling a hopeful story of how women can succeed in the face of adversity.
And that’s why Burstyn’s performance is so perfect here. At times, she shows the anguish, despair and fear of a woman who seems to have all roads closed off ahead, yet with clear determination and a smiling, humorous attitude to life, she’s able to overcome every obstacle, and find a way forward.
That’s not to say that the film ignores the realities of finding work and independence in society. While Alice is always ultimately able to find a way to succeed, the trials she has to put herself through in order to get there are extremely challenging, and it’s never entirely certain whether she will make something out of her situation, particularly when you’ve seen a string of her failures come before.
In that, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is a brilliantly fair and grounded social drama, which looks at its central issues in objective fashion, and never goes so far as to over-dramatise them. The story is challenging and sobering at times, but it’s by no means a hyperbolic tale of misery that could have so easily been the case.
With such wonderful humour throughout that turns even the hardest moments into laugh-out-loud joy, this is a film that knows the power of a positive attitude, and ultimately manages to tell the story of a difficult life for both its character and women in general while retaining an ember of hope at every moment, and that’s why I’m giving Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore a 7.5 overall.