It’s not often you see two Alzheimer’s flicks in the same week. Lucky for us, Away From Her stars none other than Julie Christie: If anyone could make losing your mind attractive, even dignified, it’s Christie. Ken Watanabe, with his remarkable mix of stoicism and charm, almost seems a fair match. But Memories of Tomorrow, which Watanabe both stars in and executive-produced, makes you wonder whether he wasn’t more at home in Memoirs of a Geisha than Letters From Iwo Jima. Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the still ripe age of 49, Watanabe, a high-powered advertising exec, decides to kill himself by leaping off the hospital roof. Vague family stereotypes aside—his aimless daughter gets pregnant out of wedlock; his wife finds independence selling pottery—the film’s low point may be the doctor’s attempt to save Watanabe with a rambling speech on death and decay. Of course, it’s no surprise that a melodrama would be melodramatic. But that doesn’t mean it has to be graceless—as Away From Her shows—and grace, that virtue most characteristic of Japanese film, is what Memories of Tomorrow completely lacks.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 8, 2007