Still Alice (2014) - full transcript

Alice Howland is a renowned linguistics professor happily married with three grown children. All that begins to change when she strangely starts to forget words and then more. When her doctor diagnoses her with Early-onset Alzheimer's Disease, Alice and her family's lives face a harrowing challenge as this terminal degenerative neurological ailment slowly progresses to an inevitable conclusion they all dread. Along the way, Alice struggles to not only to fight the inner decay, but to make the most of her remaining time to find the love and peace to make simply living worthwhile.

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Okay. Happy birthday, Mom.

Oh, is that for me?

You don't look 40, much less 50.

Charlie, please.
But thank you. I appreciate it.

- Can I open this now?
- Yes, open it.

Oh, my goodness.

Oh. Oh, I love it.

Do you like it? Oh, good.

It's so beautiful.

You can exchange it.
I'm not going to.

- You always get me things I love.
- Good.



Sorry I'm late.
Oh, hey. Hey, isn't Lisa coming?

No. We split up.

Yes, I did notice your status
popped up to single, yet again.

I, uh, forgot your present.
I left it in my locker.

That's okay.
I hope you didn't spend too much.

- No, don't worry. He didn't.
- Where have you been?

The ER was like a madhouse.
One guy came in, six stab wounds.

One missed his heart by an inch.
No. Tom, it's dinnertime. Please.

- Not yet it isn't.
- Nearly.

What kind of antibiotic did you give him?
Mom, have you spoken to Lydia?

She wanted to be here,
but she had a really important audition.

What for?
A guest spot on some TV thing.

Something Enemy.
Maybe this'll be her big break.

Mm-hm. Yeah, maybe.
Don't hold your breath.



Heh, heh. Stop it.

You guys must have been something
growing up. Dolls with heads cut off.

No, my sister and I were very close.

Oh, no. I'm sorry,
I was talking about Anna and Lydia.

Oh. My goodness.
I don't know why I said that.

We're here to celebrate you,
Mom. Dad, what about a toast?

Dad.

Toast.
Oh.

Yes, yes, yes.

To the most beautiful
and the most intelligent woman

I have known in my entire life.
Thank you.

- Happy birthday.
- Cheers! Happy birthday!

We love you.
I love you.

Cheers.
Cheers, darling.

My name is Frederick Johnson.

I'm associate professor
of cognitive science here at UCLA.

I'm here to welcome our speaker
who just flew in from New York.

Now, in my dissertation,
I spent about a chapter and a half

vituperatively citing today's guest
and saying why she was wrong.

For the record, every time that Alice
and I have argued, she was right.

Alice Howland is the Lillian Young
Professor of Linguistics

at Columbia University. She famously
wrote her seminal textbook

From Neurons to Nouns,
while raising three children.

I'm getting more
than a few "aha" moments from them.

And it is now considered
one of the cornerstones

of linguistics education
all over the world.

Please welcome Dr. Alice Howland.

Thank you so much.

Most children speak
and understand their mother tongue

before the age of 4,
without lessons, homework,

or much in the way of feedback.

How do they accomplish this feat?

This is a question that has interested
scientists at least since Charles Darwin

kept a diary of the early language
of his infant son.

He observed, "Man has
an instinctive tendency to speak

as we see in the babble
of young children. "

Much has been learned since then.

But today I'd like to focus
on some recent studies from my lab

on the acquisition of past-tense
irregular verb forms in children

between the ages of 18 months
and two and a half years.

Now, you may say that this falls

into the academic tradition
of knowing more and more

about less and less
until we know everything about nothing.

But I hope to convince you
that by observing these baby steps

into the...

Into, uh...

I- I knew I shouldn't have had
that champagne.

Into the word stock
of a given language,

we will learn crucial information

about the relationship
between memory and computation

that is the very essence
of communication.

Lexicon.

I had that same
thought. Makes sense.

- I saw it.
- Yeah, I thought about that.

Okay. I'm gonna go down
and get Shel. I'll be right back.

Hey.
Hi.

Hey, no, I'm sorry.

You just caught me by surprise.

Come on in. It's, um-

It's messy, but, you know,
I was in the process of cleaning.

It's fine, honey. Don't worry.

The boys are total slobs.
The kitchen is the main battleground,

but I've got them in training,
so we’ll see how that goes.

So where are they?
Working.

Doug's at Starbucks,
Malcolm does some catering.

I guess that's what they mean
by working actor, huh?

You involved with either one?
Uh, Doug's gay.

And Malcolm and I did have a thing,
but it's over.

He got me in with Open Space.

It's, like, the best theater company.
Yes, I heard.

Oh, thank you. Yeah, I'm done.

It would have been awesome
if you saw No Exit.

Daddy said you were good.
I was all right. It wasn't my best night,

but at least he could get,
you know, like, a sense of it.

Figure out why he's doing,

you know,
me a solid with the company.

What do you mean?

Um, it's really nice of him to help out.
How is he helping with the company?

It's our responsibility
as members to raise equity

for the productions we put on.
Eventually we get a cut

of the box office.
We're sort of shareholders.

So basically you have to pay to act?

No. Um...

It's a theater group.
It's just the reality of the situation.

That's how it is. It's Los Angeles.

Don't you think it's time
you reconsidered things?

You're so smart. There's much more
you could be doing with your life.

Like going to college?
Yes. Yes. Like college.

Like we've never talked about that
before. Every single day of my life.

I figured out what I wanted to do,
and I'm doing it. It's a good thing.

But on whose dime?
You're helping Tom with med school.

You helped Anna with law school.
Sweetheart, those are real careers.

I just don't want you
to limit your choices.

You want to make my choices.
No, I don't.

I'm really happy.

I'm sorry. I don't...

I don't wanna argue about this.

Just forget I said anything, okay?
It's forgotten.

Gonna check your phone?
It's just a game.

Your sister and I have an obsession
with "Words with Friends. "

That's cute.
You don't wanna play with her,

she's a demon.
I'm not surprised.

John?

Hi.

John?

Want one? Here you go.

Two for one
at the Shoe Warehouse.

Two for one,
Shoe Warehouse.

Two for one at the Shoe Warehouse.

So
- I don't know. That's all he said.

Two for one at the
Shoe Warehouse. Here you go.

One?
No, thanks.

Ali?

I was wondering where you were.
Don't. I'm really sweaty.

Oh. How did it go?
What?

UCLA.
Oh, it was, uh, good.

They were, um...

They were really receptive.
I'm sure they were.

How was Lydia?

Good. You know...

You guys argue?
Um...

Well, we spent the whole evening
trying not to.

The news that you're bankrolling
her theater company didn't help.

I told you about that.
Uh-uh.

You didn't.
I thought I did.

You didn't.
You're not gonna like this either,

but I have things to do at the lab.

Maybe walk me over there right now?
No, I don't wanna go back to campus.

I just went for a run.
I really need to be home right now.

Are you okay?
Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine. I just-

You said we were gonna
spend the evening in.

I did. We will. The sooner I go,
the sooner I'll be back

and we can watch a movie.

I'm sorry. I'm just exhausted.

Get some rest.

Relax.

I started forgetting
things, little annoying things

like words and names.

And I got lost, completely lost,

running on campus.

I talked to my doctor,
she said it could be menopause.

Last time I'd had a period
was February.

But I had one again, in September,
before my birthday.

Are you taking any
pills, medication, supplements?

I take a multivitamin, flaxseed oil,
calcium, iron.

I occasionally take a sleeping pill
when I travel.

Have you had any head injuries?
No.

Would you consider yourself depressed
or under undue stress at the moment?

No. I work a lot, but I thrive on it.

How's your sleeping?
It's fine. Like, seven hours a night.

Now, I'm gonna ask you to remember
a name and an address.

I'm gonna ask you for it again later.
Okay.

John Black,
42 Washington Street, Hoboken.

Can you repeat that for me?
John Black,

42 Washington Street, Hoboken.

Good. How old are you?
I'm 50.

What's today's date?
November 26th.

Where are we?
We are on the third floor.

of New York-Presbyterian.

Can you spell "water" for me?

W-A-T-E-R.

Now can you spell it for me backwards?
R-E-T-A-W.

Can you tell me what you see
on these cards?

Pliers.

A ladder.

A sea horse.

A screwdriver.

An elephant.
Good.

Tell me about your parents.
Well, they're both dead.

My mother and my sister died
in a car crash when I was 18,

and my father died in 1999
of liver failure.

Hepatitis?
Cirrhosis.

He was an alcoholic.

And what was he like
towards the end?

Incoherent. Incontinent.

We didn't really see a lot of each other.

He lived in New Hampshire,
and we weren't that close.

Sorry.

Do you have any other siblings?
No. I only had the one.

Now, can you tell me that name and
address that I asked you to remember?

Um, John Black.

Mm-hm. And the address?

Uh...

Damn it, I forgot. Heh.

Was it 42 Argyle Street,

Cole Street, Washington Street,
or South Street?

Um...

I was distracted talking about my parents.
Can we do that again?

There's no need to at this time.
Okay.

So I'd like to do an MRI,
just to rule some things out.

Like what?

Because I think I have a brain tumor.

A precaution. But it will allow us
to see if there are any lesions

or any signs of a stroke. Just
find out what is going on in there.

Okay.
What should I do in the meantime?

Get plenty of exercise. It's always
good to get the blood pumping.

Drink lots of water.

Good hydration
is excellent for the memory.

Next time you come and see me,
bring in someone who knows you well?

Your husband or a close relative?

Heh. Sure.

Uh, stethoscope,

millennium,

hedgehog.

Okay.

Um...

Cathode.

Pomegranate.

Trellis.

Okay.

Hello.

Hi. Come on in.

Hey, Mom. Hi.
Hey, hi.

Good to see you.

This is Jenny.
Hello. I'm Alice.

I'm happy you could join us.
Thank you.

Of course.
Sweetheart, why don't you guys

go in there and get a drink,
and grab the-?

The cheese thing and-
Ha, ha.

- All right.
- Yeah.

I'm so happy you could join us.

I really am, Jenny.
Thank you.

It smells so good in here.
Beautiful.

Yeah.
That's how we do it.

Okay.

How many goddamn eggs?

Cathode, pomegranate,

trellis?

Hey, Mom.
Hi.

Merry Christmas.
Oh, merry Christmas.

How was your flight?

Actually, awful. This guy
coughed all over me the entire time.

I hope you don't get sick.
Me too.

Does this mean what I think it means?
Yes.

Bread pudding?
Your favorite.

- Yes.
- Mom. Merry Christmas.

- Hi.
- Hello.

Seen my latest "Words with Friends"?
I haven't had time.

A real zinger.
Yeah?

- "Jealousy" on a triple.
- Hey!

Don't spoil it.
Already trending on Twitter.

How's California?

Nice.
Yeah?

Warmer than here?

Yeah. Heh, heh, heh.
Definitely warmer than here.

Hey, guys,
why don't you get out of here,

so I can concentrate on making this.

Okay?

Where's Dad?
He's upstairs.

Can I help you?

No, I'm fine.
Go get a drink or something.

It's gonna be delicious. Yum. It will be.
Oh, I hope so.

I can't wait.

- Jenny.
- Nice to meet you.

Nice to meet you too.

- Hi, Jenny.
- How are you?

- Hi.
- Hi.

Honestly.

- Hey.
- Slider.

It's a very big decision.
We're excited.

The place was recommended
by friends

who've been trying for years, and they just had their first child, so
- Heh.

So we’ll see.

I've heard good things about Wellspring.
Good.

It's expensive,
but we obviously want it to work.

You can't be a mom already.

I know.

- Okay.
- Are you kidding?

What kind of soup, Mom?
Here we go. It's butternut squash.

Hi, I'm Alice.
I'm so happy you could join us.

Uh-

I'm Jenny.
It's really nice to meet you.

Well, I think
Yeah-

I deserve a glass of wine
after that, don't you?

You want white?
Yes. Thank you.

- Does everyone have a glass?
- Yes, we do.

Let's have a toast. To Christmas.

Merry Christmas.

- Merry Christmas.
- Merry Christmas.

Now, I don't see
anything abnormal in your MRI.

No cerebral vascular disease,

no evidence of strokes, no masses.
Thank God.

And your blood work came back
completely clear,

but what worries me are
the memory tests that I sent you for.

You have sporadic memory impairment
totally out of proportion to your age.

And there is evidence of decline
in your level of mental function.

I think we should do a PET scan.
It's similar to an MRI,

but it can pick up things
at the molecular level.

I know what a PET scan is. What
in particular would you be looking for?

I wanna see if the results are consistent
with Alzheimer's disease.

Now, it would be rare
for someone as young as yourself,

but you do fit the criteria.

Last time, I asked you
to bring a close relative.

I really didn't think
that would be necessary.

Okay. But next time, for sure.

Okay?

"Enhancement of endogenous levels
of endorphin

has not been shown
to reduce incidence of metastasis

in the distant cell sites. "

That's not good.
Tell me about it.

We've been working on this
for months.

It seems beta endorphin
doesn't significantly impact

the microphage activity.

What about the cytokines?

Elevated. Slightly.

Oh, God.
Back to square one.

Are we both here on the 17th?
Um...

I don't remember.

Phil and Diane were saying they
might come to town for the weekend.

How long are you going
to keep at that thing?

Till it's clean.

John.

John, sweetheart, wake up.

What time is it?
I need to talk to you.

I've, um-

I've got something wrong with me.

What are you talking about?

I've been seeing a neurologist.

You've been seeing a neurologist?
Why?

They think that it might be
early-onset Alzheimer's disease.

Ali, Ali, that doesn't make
any sense at all.

They don't know anything for sure.

But I've been doing all these tests
and I'm really scared.

Ali, that is completely insane.
I got-

I got lost while I was running
on campus a while ago. I can't-

I can't remember appointments,
words.

Honey,
we all have memory lapses.

That's a sign of getting older.
The other day

I couldn't remember
the word, um, "glucose. "

It's not like that.

It's like something just drop-
Drops out under me.

But there is no diagnosis yet?
No.

Okay. Well, then I think that this
is ridiculous. It's complete bullshit.

You don't have Alzheimer's.
Why won't you take me seriously?!

I know what I'm feeling.

I know what it's feeling, and it feels
like my brain is fucking dying.

And everything I've worked for
in my entire life is going.

It's all- All going.

No.

Come here.

Don't cry.

Most of them are still awaiting trial.

They have not been found guilty.

Last year, officials at Rikers reported
to the Board of Corrections

- that on a typical day...
- What time is your tutorial?

Eleven.

Well,
that gives you some time.

Mm-hm.

I'm gonna be a little late
because I have a departmental meeting.

When I come back, we can go
to dinner, have Thai food?

Yeah, okay.

I'm okay. I just-

Last night just got the better of me,
that's all.

Well, two things: I think it's way
too early to jump to any conclusions...

and whatever happens, I'm here.

You can clearly see in here-

The red areas are high
in beta-amyloid.

The buildup has probably been
ongoing for several years.

I'm sorry.

There is evidence
of high amyloid in older people

with normal cognitive function,
correct?

Yes, but not in someone
as young as Alice.

Well, at least
it would be extremely rare.

High amyloid is associated
with conditions other than Alzheimer's.

Unfortunately, in Alice's case,

this corroborates the clinical
symptoms that she is presenting.

Shouldn't any diagnosis be
accompanied by a genetic test?

Hold on a minute, please.
Actually, I was gonna suggest that.

In a case like this,
with the onset being so early,

we would like to check for presenilin
mutations that would be an indicator

of familial Alzheimer's disease,
which is a rarer form.

We can make an appointment
for you.

So this concerns my children?
Yes.

I assume that if I have the gene,

the odds of my passing it along
are fifty-fifty.

I'm afraid so.

And if they are carriers, what are the
odds of them developing the disease?

I'm afraid it's a hundred percent.

Radiology technician,
please dial extension 256.

The kids will all be here
for our anniversary.

I don't think we should tell them,
not until we have the results.

We will by then, if I go in next week.
I wanna know as soon as possible.

Where the hell is this goddamn elevator?
Here we are in a major hospital.

Only one elevator running?
It's okay.

We could've taken the stairs by now.
It doesn't matter.

Going down.

Well, um, everybody...

What's going on?

Oh, boy. Uh...
Are you guys gonna break up or...?

No.

No, it's nothing like that. It-
Mom, are you sick?

I have been seeing a neurologist
for the past few months

and I have Alzheimer's disease.

Early onset.

That- That doesn't make sense.
Are-? Are you sure?

There is no doubt.
She has the disease.

But at her age, it's-

It is rare,
but it has been confirmed.

- Yeah.
- You're so young, Mom.

- I don't understand that.
- I had noticed one or two things.

You didn't know Tom's girlfriend
when she came over-

- Lydia.
- What medications are you on?

Right now,
I'm on Aricept and Namenda.

They can help slow the progress?

Well, no.
I'm afraid not.

Help alleviate the symptoms,

but they can't prevent the disease.
The thing is

that the type of Alzheimer's I have

is very rare.

It's familial. It's passed on genetically.
Oh, my God.

We believe that
she got it from her father

and, of course, we're very worried
about the three of you.

Now, there is a test you can take,

but it's completely up to you
whether you wanna find out or not.

I'm sorry.

I'm so...

Can anyone tell me what it says
in the syllabus for today?

Phonology.

And can anyone tell me
what phonology is?

"Phono" is from the Greek
word "phoné, " meaning "sound,"

and phonology, broadly speaking, is
the study of the sounds of language.

It should be distinguished
from phonetics.

Hi, Anna.

Hi, Mom.

Are you okay?

I got the results. I'm positive.

Oh, God, Anna.

I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.

Tom turned out negative,
and Lydia didn't wanna know.

But I'm positive.

Baby, how are you feeling?

I'm okay.

One good thing, at least I found out now
before the next IUI session.

I guess they can test the embryos,

so they can be sure
the babies will be okay.

I'm on my way to a lecture, but I can
cancel it and I can be right there.

No, no, Mom, it's okay.
I'm with Charlie. I'm okay.

No, I want to. I can-
I- I want to be there. I can come.

No, please don't worry. I'll be fine.

Okay.

I love you, sweetheart.

I love you.

Bye.
Bye.

"I had been looking forward to
this course, but I was disappointed.

The content was often muddled
and delivered with little focus or care.

Class was a waste of time. I ended up
just following the online version.

I found Linguistics 201
very erratic.

I had a hard time
following Dr. Howland's lectures.

Even she seems
like she gets lost in them. "

Eric, I am so sorry.
I- I didn't know the students felt this way.

Obviously, I will
- I will make adjustments and we can reevaluate my performance.

Everything all right at home?
Between you and John?

Yes, everything’s fine.
Is it something we can help with?

Stress, depression?
No, no, no.

Substance abuse? Alcohol?
No. No. God, Eric.

No, it's- It's nothing like that.
I- It's, uh-

It's medical.
It's a- It's a medical issue,

and I admit I had a hard time
teaching last semester

and I wasn't aware
of how much it showed.

Alice, I'm not following.

I have mild cognitive impairment.

Would you unpack that for me?

In February, I was diagnosed
with early onset Alzheimer's disease.

What?

Alice, oh, my God, I'm sorry.
It's early. It's still early stages.

It will limit my ability as time goes on,

but for now, I feel capable-
There's no need to-

I mean, we don't want you
under any undue stress.

That would be counterproductive.
I can handle the stress.

I would like to remain in the department
for as long as we all think is possible.

Well, I’ll have to let the department
and the faculty know.

Yes, of course.

I am so, so sorry.

I’ll have a regular
with blueberries and coconut, please.

Hi.

Alice, where the hell were you?

I went for a run.

You've been gone for over two hours.
I was worried.

Well, then I went to Pinkberry.

You went to Pinkberry?
Yeah.

Well, I hope you enjoyed that because
you completely blew our dinner plans.

Susan Kirby and her husband.

I'm sorry. I forgot.

I have Alzheimer's.

I texted you, I e-mailed you.

There are ways to manage-
I said I was sorry.

She's the chair of my department.

I had no idea where you were,
if something happened.

Why didn't you bring your phone?
I can't when I'm running.

Wear a fanny pack.
Is it that inhibiting?

Yes.

I hate that this is happening to me.
I hate it too.

We have to keep the important
things in our life going.

We have to try
or we're going to go crazy.

I know. I know, John.

I am, I'm sorry, but I don't know what I
would've been like at a dinner party.

I might not be able to remember names
or answer simple questions.

Never mind get through an anecdote.
You're doing great.

Relative to what?

I wish I had cancer.

Don't say that.

No, I do. I mean it.
I mean, I wouldn't feel so ashamed.

People have cancer,
they wear pink ribbons for you

and go on long walks,
and raise money,

and you don't have to feel
like some kind of a social...

I can't remember the word.

In 2013, we completed exterior repairs,
and inside, we replaced the elevators,

refurbished the auditorium,
the library and lounge area

and upgraded our HVAC system.
Well, that's good.

We also took away
a lot of the old security doors,

Residents are issued a bracelet
instead,

which keeps them from using elevators or
leaving the building, depending on their level.

I don't know if you've experienced
this with your parent,

but they get nighttime restlessness
and wandering.

We can prevent their elopement without
patients feeling they're locked in.

I see.

We saw that large group activities
left most of the residents unengaged

and even distressed by the confusion
they experienced from all the stimulation.

So we redefined activities

to include all interactions
between staff and residents in the unit.

Staff looks for opportunities to make
meaningful connections with residents,

starting with knowing about the person
and what makes them comfortable.

One woman who had worked as a nurse sat, most
days, in the nursing station, writing notes.

Heartbreaking.

Yes, but it's a behavior
we see time and again.

We don't have restrictions
on visiting times.

Family and friends
are welcome day or night.

Doesn't look like anybody's here.
Sunday is the day they come.

What's that?
Chair alarm.

Certain residents have them
so we know they're up.

- She all right?
- Just a precautionary measure.

Get me to Penn Station.
It's all women.

We do have mainly female residents
here, but there are men.

There's William.
William was part of the team

that sent the first satellite into orbit.
Mm-hm.

They just aren't powerful enough
to put me to sleep.

Do you want to try Lunesta?

What about Rohypnol?

That's very strong.

I need something strong.

Hi, Alice.

I am you and I have something
very important to say to you.

So you've reached the point
where you can no longer answer

any of the questions.

So this is the next logical step.

I'm sure of it.

In your bedroom there's a dresser
with a blue lamp.

Open the top drawer.

In the back of the drawer,
there's a bottle with pills in it.

It says, "Take all pills with water. "

Now, there are a lot of pills
in that bottle,

but it's very important
that you swallow them all.

Okay?
And then lie down and go to sleep.

And don't tell anyone
what you're doing.

Ali!

Ali!

Oh, I love it here.

Me too.

And if I had a boat
I'd go out on the ocean♪

Remember Santorini? Ha, ha, ha.
Santorini.

Can you believe that was 30 years ago?
Don't do that to me. Oh, my God.

Oh, it was a complicated time, huh?

You were dealing with a lot.
What was it, a year after?

Yeah, something like that.
Yeah.

I know I've said this, but I am sorry I
never got to meet your mom or your sister.

Me too.

We had a great time, though.

Yeah.
Don't you wish we had more of that?

If you mean blow jobs on the beach, yes.
Ha, ha, ha.

Yeah, but, you know.
I do wish we had more.

Yeah, all of it.

It all happened so fast, you know.

Anna was born, our careers.

Well, you were relentless.

You wanted evertyhing
and all at once.

That's how I am. That's how I like it.

Anna's the same way, right?

I like you the way you are.

I like evertyhing about you.

Thank God you do.

Mm. Mm.

This is so great, you know.

I kind of like it.

Being liberated from Columbia.

Why don't you take a sabbatical
next year?

And we're gonna do what,
drive around the country in an RV?

Sure. I don't know,
we could spend more time here.

Go to Bhutan.

Well, I think our summer on the island
is all the excitement I can handle.

Okay. Well, you know what?

This might be the last year
that I'm myself, you know?

Please don't say that.

John?

I'm over here.

Oh, hey, when are you
going to the conference?

On Monday.

And when is Lydia coming?
Lydia comes on Sunday.

She doesn't have to come
just to babysit me.

She's coming to do the Chekhov play
at Saugatuck, remember?

Right.
When I get finished,

are we gonna go for a run?
Yeah, I need to grab another layer.

Okay.

Hey, are we still going running?
Oh, I'm sorry. Hey, look.

Look, I found this photo album

with these pictures
of my mother and my sister.

Oh.

Hey, when are you going
to the conference?

Monday.
And when is Lydia coming?

Lydia's coming on Sunday.

Okay.

Are we going running?
Yes.

Yes, we are.
I just have to go pee.

I’ll be right back.

Ali?

I couldn't find the bathroom.

It's okay, baby.
Come on, let's get you cleaned up.

I don't know where I am.

I like that necklace.
You do?

Yeah.
Haven't seen this?

Nope.

My mother gave it to me.

When I was, um, a little girl,

like, in second grade,
my teacher told me

butterflies don't live a long time.
They live, like, a month.

And I was so upset, and I went home,
and I told my mother, and she said:

"Yeah, but, you know,
they have a nice life.

They have a really beautiful life. "

So now it always makes me think about
my mother's life, and my sister's life.

And to a certain extent,
you know, my own.

You are gonna be around for a long time.
Yes, yes.

There's some things I wanna do,
you know?

I wanna take a sabbatical with Daddy.
I don't think that's gonna happen.

And I wanna see Anna have a baby,
and I wanna see Tom graduate.

You will.
And I'd like to see you go to college.

Not for law or medicine or anything,
but for drama.

And if the acting thing doesn't
work out, you could-

You could teach or do workshops.
You'd have some kind of a backup plan.

Yeah.

I don't want a backup plan.

I-

I wanna do this. I'm gonna give it a shot. It's
not gonna happen if I don't believe in myself.

I believe in you, Lydia.
I do, I believe in you.

It's just that, you know,
life is tough.

It is tougher than you know.

And I-

I just- I want you to have
some kind of security before I go.

Mom, for God-

You have to-

You can't use your situation
to just get me to do everything

you want me to do.
Why can't I?

Because that's not fair.
I don't have to be fair.

I'm your mother.

Right?
Yeah.

Hey.
What's going on?

I'm just working, how about you?

Nothing.

I need something to read.

I thought you were reading Moby-Dick.
Yeah, I was,

but I got tired of reading the same
page over and over again. I can't focus.

Well, that happens to me
when I read Moby-Dick too.

Why don't you try something lighter.
Like The Cat in the Hat?

How about one of those plays
Lydia has downstairs?

They're quicker,
they're easier to read.

It might give the two of you
something to talk about.

Okay.

You work all the time.

What I liked about it was how-

How big, how-

How wide the scape of it was.

Yeah. The scope of it.

The scope, that's the word.
Oh, God, listen to me. Heh.

It's unbelievable you had
to live through that.

You must have known...

Must have known somebody
that died from AIDS.

Oh, yeah, honey. Everybody did.

We lost a lot of people.

What did you think?

I mean, you and Malcolm
played the Mormons, right?

The husband and wife?
You did scenes in your acting class.

Yeah, how'd you know that?

I don't know,
you must have told me.

I didn't tell you.
Mm...

Well, then...

I don't know how I know it.

Mom, did you read my journal?

Uh...

Why?

Why would you do that, Mom?
Oh, gosh.

I am so sorry.

Lydia, I honestly didn't understand
what I was reading.

You didn't understand "Lydia Howland"
written across the front?

I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I-
I don't believe you.

I didn't mean to.

Okay, it's fine.

I just can't...

Lydia, I didn't- I really didn't know.
Just stop!

I wouldn't do that to you.

So you can't eat this.
No, I know.

No sushi, no hot do
- Hot dogs are the worst. I love hot dogs.

No alcohol.
No alcohol.

No cigarettes.
Never even smoked.

Well, you- I mean-

- Never had a cigarette in your life?
- Not one.

We can't be too careful.

He even grabbed my hand the other day
as we were walking down the stairs.

Protecting my investment.
Anna, return my "Words with Friends. "

Oh, I'm sorry, Mom. I haven't had time.
Oh.

- Yeah.
- Hey.

Hey, hey. Thank you.
Congrats.

There you are.
Thanks. So twins, huh?

Yes, a boy and a girl.
Kind of perfect.

What your mother and I were hoping for.
It's so wonderful.

Oh, gosh.

I'm sorry, I've gotta take this. Hello?

- How far along are you?
- Five weeks.

Right now, it's very early days,
but, um...

Well, the timing of things, how
we found out and when we did,

- well, it really worked out in the end.
- Great.

- That's amazing.
- So, Mom, how you feeling?

Mostly fine.
Really?

Yeah, I use this thing,
you know, instead of a memory.

Reminds me to take my medication,
things like that.

It's nice how the technology can help.

I think it has the same...
Lydia, what time is your play?

Eight o'clock.

- Nervous about tomorrow night?
- Yes.

- I’ll be fine, but I'll have to block you out.
- Heh, heh.

I'm sorry. What time again?

Eight o'clock.
Okay.

You don't have to schedule it.
I wanna put it in. And where is it?

The Saugatuck Theater.
Can you spell that?

S-A-U-
Mom, we're not gonna forget you.

Just let her do it.

It's S-A-U-G-A-T-U-C-K.
Oh, God.

Anna, you're not helping.
You're not.

Why worry about remembering
something she doesn't have to?

If you just let her, she won't worry.

You don't have to talk about her
like she's not sitting here.

I'm not, I'm talking to her. Aren't I, Mom?
Yes, you are.

Yes, and what makes you an expert?
Shut up.

Grow up, Lydia.
Suck it.

That's very articulate.

Girls, girls, you know-

Are you kidding me?
That's enough.

- Stop it, please.
- You shut up.

- No, both of you, stop it.
- What is going on here?

Alice, this is a beautiful spread.

Thank you, Charlie.

Very valuable

Lydia, baby, I know that we argued
about something yesterday,

but I can't remember
what it was about.

Oh.

It was nothing, honestly.
No, I upset you.

And I should apologize.

No, no.

I should apologize.

I'm...

I feel really bad.
I was so insensitive yesterday.

Will you forgive me, honestly?

But for what?

It was about you respecting my
privacy, and I don't want that.

And I take it back completely.

And I'm sorry, okay?

I'm sorry.

It's not as if I can remember it. Heh, heh.
Heh, heh.

Yeah, I know, right?
That's why I tried to drop it.

What's it like?

Like, what does it actually feel like?
Um...

Well, it's not always the same.

You know, I have, uh-
I have good days and bad days.

And on my good days, I can, you
know, almost pass for a normal person.

But on my bad days, I feel
like I can't find myself. Um...

I've always been so defined
by my intellect,

my language, my articulation,

and now, sometimes, I can see
the words hanging in front of me

and I can't reach them.
I don't know who I am,

and I don't know
what I'm gonna lose next.

That sounds horrible.

Thanks for asking.

Oh, Lydia.

They're leaving us.

One has quite left us.

Quite and forever.

We alone remain
to begin our lives over again.

We must live.

There will come a time
when we all will know why...

for what purpose
there is all of this suffering

and there will be no mystery.

But now we must live.

We must work, just work.

Tomorrow I'll go off on my own
and I'll teach.

I’ll give everything I have
to those who might, perhaps, need it.

It's autumn now.

Soon it will be winter.
The snow will cover everything.

And I'll be working.

Just working.

There she is. Hey, you were amazing.

Yes, you were so good.

- Incredible.
- You killed it, totally.

Miss Howland,
would you sign this for me?

It was just wonderful.

I- I found it so easy
to empathize with her.

You- You really caught her despair,
but also her joy.

Thank you. Awesome.

Will we get to see you in
anything else this summer?

Um, no, this is the only job I got.

Oh, so you're here
for just the season.

- Yeah.
- Mom. Mom.

This is Lydia, your daughter.

No, I- I know that.
Heh, heh.

Thanks for coming.
Weird, embarrassing.

Don't be embarrassed.
Don't, please. Please don't be.

Giraffe.

Hammer.

Comb.

Oh, I know what that is.

It is like a chicken, but it's not.

It is a duck.

How about this one?

A basketball.

Can you spell water for me backwards?
Could I spell it forward first?

Mm-hm.

W-A-T-E-R.

R- E-T-A-W.

That's very good.

Now, can you tell me that name
I asked you to remember?

Ugh. You always tell me,
and I can never remember it.

Was it John Black, John White,
John Jones, or John Smith?

Smith?

And his address,
was it East Street, Washington Street,

Humboldt Street, or Main Street?

Just to jump in here, we're both
concerned about the rate of deterioration.

Is that normal?
Well, every case is different.

With familial early onset,
things can go fast.

And with people who have a high level
of education, things can go faster.

They've managed to sustain
their mental processes

through innovative means
and that delays diagnosis.

Now, clearly, Alice's memory is failing,
but she's still incredibly resourceful.

Thank you.

I know you're- You're discouraged,

but sometimes I've seen patients
plateau at this point.

Don't lose hope.

I read your name in the Alzheimer's
Association Care Conference brochure.

You're gonna give a speech.
Will you be there?

Yes. I'm looking forward to it.

I'm going to be away on business
in Minnesota, and I'm worried.

Are you sure this is a good idea,
considering the state that she's in?

She's gonna be under a lot of stress.
It'll be great for her.

Everything will be fine.
But you're not worried about it,

are you, Alice?
No, I don't think so.

"Various ways to prevent
the production of amyloid

are being tried.

There is a new study

that combines base and gamma
secretase inhibitors

and this is one of our best hopes
for the future. "

That's it. That's the end.

It's good, Mom. It's good.

It's very scientific.
Yes, well, you know.

Yeah. And I'm sure it's valid,
but, um...

But what?

I mean, is there any value
in making it a bit more personal?

I don't understand what you mean.

You know, you're not speaking
to a room of scientists.

What I wanna know, really, is, like,
how you feel, what does it feel like?

What does this disease mean
to you?

You weren't listening
because that's all there.

That's in the speech.

Okay.

Don't ask me, then.
Oh, no, then I won't ask, then.

Hey.

Mom, just give it
one more shot, okay?

I can't
because I have done it already.

Huh?

I- I use this...

Yellow- Yellow thingy to mark it,

so I don't have to read the same line
over and over and over and over again.

Got it. Totally.

Just print out one more.

It took me three days to write this.

You can print out one more.
No, it took me three days.

Sorry.
Three days.

Here you are.

Thank you.

Hi.
Hi.

Hello there.
Hello.

Hi. Oh, Tom, this is my doctor.

My son.
Travis Benjamin.

I'm your mother's neurologist.
My son, Tom.

Pleasure.
So how you feeling, Alice?

I think I'm nervous.

You're gonna do great.
Break a leg.

Nice to meet you.
Yeah.

It is a great honor to welcome
our next speaker, Alice Howland.

A former professor of linguistics
at Columbia,

she's written textbooks
and has lectured all over the world.

Alice is living
with early-onset Alzheimer's

with the care and support
of her loving family.

Please welcome Alice Howland.

Please give me just a minute.

Um...

"Good morning.

It's an honor to be here.

The poet Elizabeth Bishop once wrote:

'The art of losing isn't hard to master.

So many things seem filled
with the intent to be lost

that their loss is no disaster. '

I am not a poet.

I am a person living
with early onset Alzheimer's.

And as that person, I find myself
learning the art of losing every day.

Losing my bearings,
losing objects, losing sleep,

but mostly, losing memories. "

Oh, no.

Thank you. Um...

I think I'll try to forget
that just happened.

"All my life,
I've accumulated memories.

They've become, in a way,
my most precious possessions.

The night I met my husband,

the first time I held my textbook
in my hands,

having children, making friends,
traveling the world.

Everything I accumulated in life,

everything I've worked so hard for,

now all that is being ripped away.

As you can imagine, or as you know,
this is hell.

But it gets worse.

Who can take us seriously

when we are so far
from who we once were?

Our strange behavior
and fumbled sentences

change others' perceptions of us
and our perception of ourselves.

We become ridiculous,
incapable, comic.

But this is not who we are.

This is our disease.

And like any disease, it has a cause,

it has a progression

and it could have a cure.

My greatest wish is that my children,

our children, the next generation,
do not have to face what I am facing.

But for the time being, I'm still alive.

I know I'm alive.

I have people I love dearly.

I have things I wanna do with my life.

I rail against myself
for not being able to remember things,

but I still have moments in the day
of pure happiness and joy.

And please,
do not think that I am suffering.

I am not suffering.

I am struggling.

Struggling to be a part of things,

to stay connected to who I once was.

'So live in the moment,' I tell myself.

It's really all I can do.

Live in the moment.

And not beat myself up too much-

And not beat myself up too much

for mastering the art of losing.

One thing I will try to hold on to, though,
is the memory of speaking here today.

It will go.

I know it will.

It may be gone by tomorrow,

but it means so much
to be talking here today

like my old, ambitious self,

who was so fascinated
by communication. "

Thank you for this opportunity.

It means the world to me.

Thank you.

It's the Mayo Clinic.

It would start up next spring.

And I'd be heading up my own team.

So you want us to move to?

It's in Rochester, Minnesota.

Well, it could be
a whole new adventure for us.

You might even like it there.
Everything I know is here.

Anna and Tom
and the babies that are coming.

It's just a two-hour flight.
We'd see them as often as we do now.

Ali, this just came up

and they haven't even made
a formal offer, but don't you see?

This is it. They're working
on many cutting-edge treatments.

They've got resources.
I understand.

I understand that work is important.

I miss working.

I think you should ask them
if you can start in a year.

It's not academia.
They don't give sabbaticals.

But to pick up and move

right when- When- When- Ugh.

Why can't I say what I wanna say?

Ali, one way or the other,
we’ll still be together.

So no time off?

I can't take a year off.
Financially, that's not an option,

and God knows where we’ll be
further down the line.

That's it then. That's it.

What?
Well, you don't- You don't want that.

A year at home with me, watching this.

I didn't say that.

You didn't have to.

Ali, what are you doing?

I can't find it.

You can't find what?
I can't find my phone.

It's the middle of the night.
It's important. It goes off at 8:00

and it asks me these questions.
I have to find it.

We'll look for it in the morning.
I have to find it.

Help me find my phone!
I’ll help tomorrow.

I promise you. Tomorrow.
Help me. No! I want it.

I’ll help you find it.
Help me find it.

I promise, but come to bed. Come.
Help me. God. Help me find my phone.

Come to bed with me, please.
All right.

Please?
Okay.

Come on.

Since the beginning, I
completely understand the situation.

Hey.

Anne?

I look forward to seeing you guys.

Hi.
Hey, Mama. Hey.

It's Anna, Mom.

I thought you were my sister.

It's okay.
How are you feeling?

Oh, so uncomfortable.

I can't breathe, I can't sleep.

Was it like this for you?

I didn't have two at a time.

This is true.

Did you get the green curry?
I did. It's right here.

Oh, great.
Everything on track?

Yes. They made
a very generous offer.

Oh, that's great.
I guess.

No, it is. It's the right decision.

Would you like some water?
Yes.

John, what happened?
Who was on the phone?

That was that hospital, honey,
the Mayo Clinic.

Is someone sick?

No. Nothing's wrong.

Everything's absolutely fine.

Oh, my God.

Oh, no.

I was looking for that last night.

That was a month ago.
Right.

Ali. Hey.

Wake up, baby.
It's time to wake up.

It's time to get dressed.

I'm gonna help you.

I've got some very good news
for you.

Let me help you with your pants.
Come.

No, I- I want my green one.

Oh, no, I think this one
will be really, really nice.

Let's put that one on.

Okay.

Okay. Lean on me.
Mm-hm.

Okay, hold on.

Oh, there she is. Hey.

What's the matter?
She looks terrible.

Well, she just
delivered the babies, honey.

Anna, you had your babies.
I did, Mom.

- This is Allison.
- You look so beautiful.

Thank you.
That's Charlie Jr.

Little Charlie.
My goodness.

Yes.

There you go.
Can I hold her?

Is that a good idea?

I know how to hold a baby.

That's okay. Mom, you can sit
right there in that chair.

There. That's good.

There we go. All right.

Hi.

Something tells
me you've done this before.

She looks like you.

There are days she
knows where she is, certainly,

but there are just as many days
when she doesn't.

Maybe she thinks she's a child
back in New Hampshire or who knows?

It's happening more and more.
She doesn't know what's going on.

Yeah, I just-

I keep thinking about what she said
in that speech, you know,

how important her memories
are to who she is.

Yes, but that was months ago.

Guys, this is difficult for all of us.

But it's important to remember
who Alice was.

She would not want to be a burden.

Anna, you have the babies,
you wanna go back to work.

You're not in a position to care
for her, not seriously, Tom.

And I can't keep Mayo waiting.

The beginning of this month, I am gone.
I want to take her with me.

I will get her the best possible care,
and once she's adjusted to Minnesota,

she will be happier for it,
and so will all of us.

Lydia's gonna flip.
Oh, so let her.

Well, she is.
Well, she has no right to.

If she cared, she wouldn't be
on the other side of the country.

Hot in here.

Who is he exactly?

His name is Bill Thompson.
He's a manager.

Why is he so important?

He'll open doors for me.

Get me into auditions
I wouldn't be able to get into.

Got me some good headshots.

I see.

What's his name?

Bill Thompson.

He's with Thompson
and Gould,

if you wanna look him up.
They're good.

Kettle's boiling.

Where's Elena?

I'm making myself
a cup of tea.

Cool. Where's, uh,
your caretaker?

Elena's not here today.

Her daughter's sick.
She's at the doctor.

So you're alone?

I can make myself a cup
of tea.

Okay.

You wanna check out my
headshot? If I send you a link,

can you open the file,
download the file?

Yes.

Good.

Okay, um...

I'll talk to you later. I love you.

Bye.
Bye.

Hi.

Alice, I'm you, and I have something
very important to say to you.

You've reached that point, the point
where you can't answer the questions.

So this is the next logical step.

I'm sure of it.

Because what's happened to you.
The-

You know, the Alzheimer's.
You could see it as tragic, but...

your life has been anything
but tragic.

You have had a remarkable career

and a great marriage

and three beautiful children.

All right, listen to me. Um...

This is important.

Make sure that you're alone
and go to your bedroom.

In your bedroom,
there's a dresser with a blue lamp.

Open the top drawer.

In the back of the drawer,
there's a bottle with pills in it.

It says, "Take all pills with water. "

Now, there are a lot of pills
in that bottle,

but it's very important
that you swallow them all, okay?

And then lie down

and go to sleep.

And don't tell anyone
what you're doing, okay?

In your bedroom, there's
a dresser with a blue lamp.

Open the top drawer.

In the back of the drawer,
there's a bottle with pills in it.

It says,
"Take all pills with water. "

Dresser with lamp. Dresser...

Blue lamp. Dresser.

Make sure that you're alone
and go to your bedroom.

In your bedroom,
there's a dresser with a blue lamp.

Open the top drawer.

In the back of the drawer,
there's a bottle with pills in it.

It says, "Take all pills with water. "

Now, there are a lot of pills
in that bottle,

but it's very important
that you swallow them all, okay?

And then lie down and go to sleep.

And don't tell anyone
what you're doing, okay?

Hello?

May I have a cookies-and-cream
and a chocolate hazelnut?

You know what you want.

Cookies-and-cream
and chocolate hazelnut.

You usually have the original
with blueberries and coconut.

Okay.

Original with blueberries
and coconut, please.

Ali, you see that building
over there?

Do you know what that is?

I don't think I know that.

That's Columbia,
where you used to teach.

Someone told me
I was a good teacher.

Yes. You were.

I was really smart.

You were the smartest person
I've ever met.

Ali, do you still wanna be here?

I'm not done yet.

Do we have to go?

No.

Don't worry.

Take your time.

- Is this all of your stuff?
- I shipped some boxes as well.

Are you sad to leave L.A.?

I'm trying to convince myself
I'm an East Coast girl.

Where's Mom?

She's sleeping.

Well, here it is.

Your old room.

Wow.

So how did it work out
with your manager?

It's a West Coast company, you know.
Not so good.

Well, that's too bad.
Are you sure you don't mind?

We've had this conversation.

Okay.

It's New York City.
I’ll audition, do theater.

I know that this is where
I need to be, though, so...

You're a better man than I am.

Dad, I've got her, okay?

It's getting pretty cold, huh?

Wanna head home?

Come on, let's do it.

Birds go by above you

Sing away your blues♪

Hey.
Hi.

How was your walk?

I don't think I know you.

Yes, you do.
Hey, Mom, it's Elena.

I'm gonna get you
some juice, okay?

Come, let's take off your coat
and go inside.

"Night flight to San Francisco,
chase the moon across America.

God, it's been years
since I was on a plane.

When we hit 35,000 feet,
we’ll have reached the tropopause,

the great belt of calm air.

As close to the ozone as I'll get,
I- I dreamed we were there.

The plane leapt the tropopause,

the safe air, and attained the outer rim,
the ozone, which was ragged and torn,

patches of it threadbare
as old cheesecloth, and that was...

frightening.

But I saw something only I could see

because of my astonishing ability
to see such things.

Souls were rising...

from the earth far below,
souls of the dead,

of people who'd perished

from famine, from war,
from the plague...

and they floated up,
like skydivers in reverse,

limbs all akimbo,
wheeling, spinning.

The souls of these departed
joined hands, clasped ankles

and formed a web,
a great net of souls.

And the souls were three-atom
oxygen molecules of the stuff of ozone

and the outer rim absorbed them,
and was repaired.

Because nothing is lost forever.

In this world,
there's a kind of painful progress.

A longing for what we've left behind...

and dreaming ahead.

At least I think that's so. "

That's it.

Hey.

Did you like that?

What I just read, did you like it?
Hm.

Yeah.

And what-?

What was it about?

Love.

Yeah. Love.

Yeah, Mom.

It was about love.

If I had a boat

I'd go out on the ocean

And if I had a pony

I'd ride him on my boat

And we could all together

Go out on the ocean

Set me upon my pony on my boat

If I were Roy Rogers

I'd sure enough be single

I couldn't bring myself
To marrying old Dale

It'd just be me and Trigger

Go riding through them movies

Then we'd buy a boat
And on the sea we'd sail

And if I had a boat

I'd go out on the ocean

And if I had a pony

I'd ride him on my boat

And we could all together

Go out on the ocean

Set me upon my pony on my boat

The mystery masked man was smart

He got himself a Tonto

'Cause Tonto did the dirty work
For free

But Tonto he was smarter

And one day said, "Kemo sabe

Kiss my ass, I bought a boat
I'm going out to sea"

And if I had a boat

I'd go out on the ocean

And if I had a pony

I'd ride him on my boat

And we could all together

Go out on the ocean

Set me upon my pony on my boat

And if I were like lightning

I wouldn't need no sneakers

I'd come and go
Wherever I would please

And I'd scare 'em by the shade tree

And I'd scare 'em by the light pole

But I would not scare my pony
On my boat out on the sea

And if I had a boat

I'd go out on the ocean

And if I had a pony

I'd ride him on my boat

And we could all together

Go out on the ocean

Set me upon my pony on my boat

Set me upon my pony on my boat