This post is for StinkyLulu's Supporting Actress Blog-a-Thon, Class of 2007. I strongly suggest you head over there for other posts from across the blogosphere.
Most of the press surrounding Away From Her has been (deservedly, I hasten to add) focused on Julie Christie, or Sarah Polley, or perhaps if you’re lucky Gordon Pinsent and even Olympia Dukakis. But while all the aforementioned are richly deserving of the praise lavished upon them, there’s an unsung hero within, and after much deliberation, it’s she whom I’ve chosen to write about for this blog-a-thon.
Kristen Thomson plays Kristy, a nurse at the care home where Christie’s Fiona is sent when her Alzheimer’s becomes too advanced for her husband Grant (Pinsent) to deal with. Just as Polley flips general movie convention on its head by making the rare film about the older generation, Thomson is like the wise mentor character from the opposite generation. Sharing a cigarette with Grant outside the hospital, Thomson gets her biggest moment in the film, peeling off a few layers as Kristy talks a little about her daughter, and how she’s just trying to get along.
Thomson is both the warmth and the wit of the movie, providing the lighter moments of the film but always underlining them with the weariness Kristy feels, the simultaneous feeling of fatigue and usefulness she sees in her work. She is an unburdening shoulder to lean on, a real, tangible person for Grant to hook onto as his wife drifts further away from him. She represents the humanity beneath the polished, polite, sterile surface the home’s manager presents to Grant when he first visits, and Thomson is clever enough to put the script’s descriptions of her into her movement too- her walk is never weary and heavy, but neither does it have the false spring of the manager’s glide.
Kristy is simply an average woman working in a difficult, unappreciated job which she gives as much as she can to, trying to live for herself and her daughter. To Grant, Kristy is a source of peace and normality in a system he doesn’t like or understand; to the movie, she acts like a backbone, an essential but unexceptional supporting construction, and Thomson never makes her bigger than she should be- she is, ultimately, the definition of ‘supporting’, and that’s why I picked her for this brief moment in the spotlight.