Welcome to Britflicks, a site dedicated to supporting the British film industry. Here you will find all the latest British film news, releases, trailers and interviews as well as some great competitions prizes.
British Film Review: Still Life
Directed By Uberto Pasolini
What happens when we die? Not in a religious sense, but a practical one. Who organises the funeral and the hundred and one other things that need doing? For the growing number of single people in this country, it’s an even bigger question ……
In Uberto Pasolini’s Still Life, there are people whose job it is to arrange funerals for those who leave – or appear to leave - nobody behind them when they die. In the fictional Kennington Council, it’s John May’s (Eddie Marsan) responsibility and one he takes very seriously, going well beyond his job description. He chooses the music for the funerals, writes the eulogy for the vicar, attends the funeral (often as the only person in the congregation) and even decides on whether it’s followed by a cremation or burial. It’s always the latter. At times, he locates the deceased’s relatives, although the results can be unpredictable. But then he’s suddenly told he’s being made redundant. Allowed to finish his last case, a solitary drunk who lived nearby, he tracks down the man’s daughter, Kelly (Joanne Froggatt), a meeting which broadens his solitary and regimented life.
The film’s been described as a black comedy but that does it an injustice. There is plenty of humour here, but it’s not black, more a pale shade of grey and very much of the tragi-comic variety. Much of it comes from John himself and the contrast between his intentions and his actions. His choice of music for the funerals is sometimes deliciously inappropriate – one coffin disappears to the rousing strains of Scotland The Brave. More often than not the humour not only makes you smile but brings a lump to the throat – often at the same time – and much of that is down to the solitary central character and Eddie Marsan’s performance in the role.
You can tell almost from the outset that John will be joining the ranks of those dying alone when his time comes and you find yourself hoping that there’ll be somebody like him to make the necessary arrangements. Except, given the council cutbacks, it looks unlikely. He’s desperately lonely but never recognises it, seeing his solitude as nothing unusual and filling his days with routine and order. Look at what he has to eat every day and the methodical way he peels an apple. Yet, underneath that regimented exterior, his heart is full of compassion, treating the dead like individuals instead of mere names on paper. The attention to detail running his life translates itself into acts of genuine humanity and generosity of spirit.
Marsan is perfectly cast in the role and captures every little nuance of his oddball yet hugely sympathetic character. It’s a performance of the utmost delicacy and tenderness and one that gets the audience on side in the blink of an eye. It also won him Best Actor at the Edinburgh International Film Festival last year, even though the film was actually released in 2013.
His co-star, Joanne Froggatt, is more familiar to TV audiences as Anna in Downton Abbey but here she’s another lonely soul, painfully aware of her solitude and filling it with a large dog at home and working at the local kennels. Loneliness is the common ground that brings Kelly and John together in a poignant relationship that you desperately want to work.
For all its British setting and cast, 'Still Life' has a very European feel, mainly because of its simple cinematography. Full of solitary figures in landscapes – and that solitary figure is often John – its clean, precise style is a perfect fit for the story. We watch John taking the same walk home, waiting at the zebra crossing, passing the same man leaning out of the same window – every single day. And, when he walks down the high street to the shops, there’s remarkably few people around. The focus is on him and his solitude.
With its thoughtful acting and genuine warmth, 'Still Life' is a beautifully judged film – except for its ending. I won’t give it away, but I can say that, in the context of the film, it’s like fingers down a blackboard. The tone suddenly descends into a sentimentality that neither belongs or is, indeed, necessary. In fact, the film would have been worked much better without it.
'Still Life' is released in selected cinemas on Friday, 6 February.
Copyright © Britflicks ltd - John Baker | Website Design - Kai Motta | Website Developer - Christian Abbott
Privacy & Cookies