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Still Life is a poignant, quixotic tale of life, love and the afterlife. Meticulous and organized to the point of obsession, John May (Eddie Marsan) is a council worker charged with finding the next of kin of those who have died alone. When his department is downsized, John must up his efforts on his final case, taking him on a liberating journey that allows him to start living life at last. Written by
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Inherent in the very title of the film Still Life lies its biggest challenge how to convey a sense of stillness in a medium that by its very name is supposed to, yes, move. And yet, Uberto Pasolini, who wrote and directed Still Life, rivals the Flemish masters of old. What a triumph. What layers of plot intertwined with those images to tell the story of a man who will break your heart a thousand times in each still life moment he creates in his very, very, very deliberate life. I am grateful to have seen this movie.
I named some of the still life images that were seared in my mind. Man in Kitchen with Plate on Drainboard. Man at Bus Stop Alone. Safe Office Prison. Happy Death. Train Ride with Meat Pie. They go on and on. Two Drunks on Steps. Each and every scene is a moving still life that speaks to a life of safe deliberation that turns to moving outside the net of safety, that is punishable by death. We all know the dangers of leaving safe plodding behind. Those moments outside the box of life's monotony will be worth it in the end and they were.
The acting is perfection. I'm sure even Lucian Freud would want to paint the actors Pasolini gathered for this film. How can we thank Eddie Marsan for bringing Mr. May to life with such dignity, charm and humor? Does he utter more than fifty words in the entire film? I don't think so, and yet, I heard his voice through the entire showing. And, Joanne Froggatt, (yes, from Downton Abbey), gifts us with a portrayal of Kelly Stoke that is the perfect answer to Marsan's May.
I have to confess when I went to the film I didn't realize that Pasolini was the producer of The Full Monty, The Emperor's New Clothes, and The Closer You Get. Producer? No way. Stick with writing and directing, sir. You are surely one of the best in the business.
Death will come to us all. It is our hope that we never die alone, with no one to celebrate our lives afterward. In fact, few of us think about those that do die without anyone to put them to rest. Still Life will change a lot of things for you if you can take it in as if it were a museum tour of a great exhibit. I think it's a 'see it more than once' film for sure. And yes, forgive the pun, it is an incredibly moving experience.
This might be The Hampton Film Festival's best sleeper this year. Congratulations. Oh, and thank you.
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