STILL MINE (2013)
Starring James Cromwell, Geneviève Bujold, Rick Roberts, Julie Stewart, Campbell Scott, Jonathan Potts, Chuch Shamata, Ronan Rees, George R. Robertson, Barbara Gordon and Zachary Bennett.
Screenplay by Michael McGowan.
Directed by Michael McGowan.
Distributed by Samuel Goldwyn Films. 103 minutes. Rated PG-13.
There is nothing quite so tragic as the ravages of old age. Smart, able, capable people slowly lose everything they once held dear.
This heartbreaking little Canadian film – based on a true story – understands the helplessness of trying to stave off time. No matter how hard you try, little by little, it will take everything.
However, the subject, while rich, is not what makes Still Mine so special. Many films have been made poorly about elderly people – in fact, the movies often treat them as jokes – so a film needs to bring more to the table than just "What a drag it is getting old."
What makes this film so special, though, are two of the finer acting performances of the year – both by actors who rarely get a role this meaty at this point in their career.
James Cromwell has had a long run of intriguing character roles since his breakout twenty years ago as the kindly farmer in Babe. (Though he had been working as a character actor for decades before.) Finally he gets a lead role worthy of his talents. As a sturdy, somewhat humorless older man (and let's face it, no one can do that role like Cromwell) whose farming business is slowly dying and whose beloved wife is gradually losing her spark to Alzheimer's disease, Cromwell does a masterful balancing act. His Craig Morrison is trying desperately to be strong and steady, at the same time he is tilting at windmills and feels life slipping from his control.
Even more devastating is the way-too-long missing in action Geneviève Bujold, who was one of the finest actresses of the 60s and 70s (Anne of a Thousand Days, Obsession, Another Man Another Chance, Coma). Sadly, like so many actresses, after she reached a certain age, the good roles started drying up, and while she has been working semi-regularly ever since, she has not had a role this impressive since Dead Ringers in 1988.
Bujold's take on Irene Morrison is simply heartbreaking. She shows the strong, beautiful, capable woman who was once there, at the same time she also imparts the horror as she suddenly seems to lose track of where she is, what she was talking about, who she is with. Bujold's haunted eyes and shy confusion capture the horror of the disease in a way that words can't.
Still Mine tells a simple story, but one that is heartbreaking in its commonness. Craig Morrison is an aging farmer in rural Canada. He lives in the same house that he has shared with his wife Irene for decades. He still tries to make a living growing strawberries and raising cows, but he is being quickly squeezed out by the huge agricultural firms. He is poor, but the one thing he does have is land – 6,000 acres of unspoiled heartland.
When Irene starts showing signs of Alzheimer's disease, Craig realizes the big old house is becoming dangerous and confusing for his wife. So he decides to single-handedly build a little one-story home in Irene's favorite spot of their property by the water, a place for her to be safe and still with him. However, things can never be that simple, and suddenly the Canadian government is hitting him up for inspections and fees, eventually trying to stop him from building on his own property.
It is a tough and sad story, made the more so because it is true. There are small sections when other people enter this world. Craig and Irene's adult children try ineffectually to be of help. Craig bickers with his closest neighbor, a man who may get on his nerves but in an odd way that Craig may not even realize is probably Craig's closest friend other than his wife. Campbell Scott shows up for a few powerful scenes as Craig's long-time lawyer.
That said, some of Still Mine's political points are a little bit skewed. The government representatives are almost cartoonish in their bluster and lack of understanding. And yes, while this man is a very skilled and careful craftsman, there is a very real reason why any construction has to be inspected at every step. Not every builder is going to be as conscientious as this one and if you let people just start erecting structures with no oversight it could be a public hazard. It's not just a way of the government collecting fees (though that is a factor, too).
Nonetheless, this is all window dressing. Still Mine hits home in the quiet scenes in which Cromwell and Bujold face mortality with a sense of love and shared experience which is both heartening and quietly devastating.
Copyright ©2013 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: July 12, 2013.