home | index
Still Life (2013)
As a final act, May adopts a particularly obsessive and life-changing curiosity about his colourful last case file: a deceased tenement neighbour he never knew.
Still Life is a mildly quirky 2013 drama from Britain that has only just clinched homeland theatrical release in 2015, but has garnered loads of acclaim from the international film fest circuit: Best Film awards in Abu Dhabi, Reykjavik and Venice, and Best Cinematography wins in Italy and Venice. Best Performance wins for Eddie Marsan in Edinburgh and Slovakia. And, so-on. The film is the second feature directed by Uberto Pasolini who, as a producer, previously garnered a Best Film BAFTA win and Oscar nomination for the UK smash hit, The Full Monty (1997). Still Life co-stars Brit TV's Downton Abbey supporting cast staple Joanne Froggatt.
There's a wonderfully heartbreaking scene that encapsulates the tone of this sadly exhausting small film, where Marsan's character transfers keepsake photos he's secreted away from his closed work files into a large album kept in his small lonely apartment. His personal book of the dead. All strangers to him, frozen in time when they mattered in their lives, as May thumbs through the pages with an expression of melancholy in his eyes. Perhaps pity. It's sounds creepy, but that silent scene speaks volumes regarding the depth of this character's empathy and compassion for those lost souls whose passing has been entrusted to him by default - because nobody else cares.
Eddie Marsan's performance is exquisite throughout this picture. Empathetic. Insightful. Amusing. He's a pure joy to watch. Never over-played, Marsan also deftly crafts an amazing, methodical transformation of his character. Through learning more about the life of and crazy stunts pulled by a recently deceased neighbour, as well as coming into contact with the man's estranged daughter (nicely played by Froggatt), grey John May slowly blossoms from being a seriously meticulous and somewhat socially stunted loner, into someone who can shrug off his all-consuming job's fog of perpetual mourning and appreciate a kind of rebirth among the living. Wonderful.
However, Still Life does have flaws. Major flaws. Director Uberto Pasolini's screenplay tends to redundantly punctuate this film with contrived additional pathos throughout. It's almost as though Pasolini was insecure about trusting a paying audience to pick up on every clearly expressed nuance already brought to each scene by this cast. Possibly ignorant of it, much like insisting on silver plating a perfect diamond. A glaring example of this fairly inept handling comes from the movie's outrageously stupid final scene. I couldn't believe it. That last scene is absolutely flabbergasting and shamefully sabotages all of the intellectually and emotionally superior work Marsan and this cast obviously pulled from the script and poured into the film. It's too bad.
Still Life could have been a great movie for indie-lovers. Marsan gives the must-see leading performance of his career (so far), but, awards or not, Pasolini's weird need for overt sappiness proves he was the wrong choice to direct his own screenplay this time. It's not complete crap due to that, but the over-all result does drop this one to being a cheap matinee pick or second choice rental. Reviewed 02/15, © Stephen Bourne, moviequips.ca.
Still Life is rated NR by the
Ontario Film Review Board, and is rated NR by la Régie
du Cinéma in Québec. Ratings subject to change.
Stephen Bourne's Movie Quips © Stephen Bourne. Moviequips.ca and moviequips.com are the property of Stephen Bourne. All content of this website is owned by Stephen Bourne, unless obviously not (such as possible reference links, movie synopsis and/or posters featured under the terms of fair use) or attributed otherwise. This website is based in Ottawa, Canada.