Still Life (12a)

Oct 12, 2016
Cranbrook Film Society

A compassionate council clerk in the Registry of Deaths determines to discover the relatives of a man who died alone, and apparently unloved; in doing so he bestows a dignity and grace on all around him.
Understated, witty and profound.

Uberto Pasolini | UK/Italy | 2013 | 92 mins | 12a

Written, directed, and produced by Uberto Pasolini an Italian national and nephew of the great Luchino Visconti this is a small film with ambitious horizons. Previous well known works include “The Full Monty” but don’t let that put you off, this is ninety minutes of understated, gentle humour shot through with subversively grim truths.

The central character played by Eddie Marsan is based on a reality. The little grey man from the council who organises the funerals and traces the identities of those who die alone, lost, unloved or just plain unknown. He exists to officially record and give closure to the lives that slip through society’s net.

Marsan portrays John May as an obsessive little chap who loves his job; solitary, decent, humble, organised, and unassuming, he goes to painstaking lengths to give dignity and identity to the forgotten.

All this may sound a tad mawkish and sentimental but with a beautifully understated script this gem of a movie slowly builds a dramatic tension around the humane efforts of dogged decency versus the great faceless realities of Council budgets, computers and the grim reaper.

As May’s digitally orientated new boss remarks menacingly “You are very thorough but also very expensive.”

Superbly photographed, every frame is a study in wry alienation, and with a light yet sensitively detached soundtrack this may just be a classic.

Despite the fact that this is a bleak landscape inhabited by ordinary, unremarkable people this charming film seeks to recover small moments and affirm the efficacy of human kindness; the result is a cathartic and universally life-affirming message.

Look out for dramatically gifted dogs, books propping up chairs and that chambermaid from “Downton”.

Philip Bret-Day


            Weighted vote 88.3%